CBABC receives regular updates from the Courts, LSBC, LTSA, and others. We will update this page as information becomes available to us. 

Health & Safety Protocols

Courthouses across the province are increasing in-person appearances. Read the latest directives and learn about protocols implemented by the government and the courts to ensure the health and safety of all legal stakeholders.

Guides to Virtual Court Proceedings

CBABC has prepared a series of guides to assist lawyers using Zoom and Teams for court proceedings.
Best Practices in Virtual Hearings. Visit Support for Business to download the guides.

Province of BC
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Purpose

British Columbia is currently in Phase 3 of the Restart Plan1 and an increasing number of non-essential businesses, non-profit societies, and other organizations are reopening their doors or increasing their operations. Undue fears of civil liability for exposure to or transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 should not discourage persons from operating businesses and other services that are important to the reopening of BC’s economy and the provision of services that British Columbians rely on.

The purpose of the COVID-19 (Limits on Actions and Proceedings) Regulation, BC Reg 204/2020 (the Regulation) is to provide comfort and protection from civil liability to persons engaging in activities that are important to BC’s response to, and recovery from, the COVID-19 pandemic. Such activities include the operation of essential services, non-essential businesses, and non-profit services with a community benefit.

History

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a provincial state of emergency was declared on March 18, 2020 under the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996, c 111 (EPA). Under the authority of the EPA, the Solicitor General made the following ministerial orders to provide protection from civil liability for damages resulting, directly or indirectly, from an individual being or likely being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19):

Date Number Title
April 2, 2020 M094/2020 Protection Against Liability (COVID-19) Order
April 22, 2020 M120/2020 Protection Against Liability (COVID-19) Order No. 2
Note: M120/2020 repealed and replaced M094/2020
June 10, 2020 M183/2020 Protection Against Liability for Sports (COVID-19) Order

Ministerial Orders M094/2020 and M120/2020 provided protection to persons who operated or provided essential services. Ministerial Order M183/2020 provided protection to non-profit sports organizations, as well as their directors, officers, employees and volunteers.

Under all three ministerial orders, a person was required act in accordance with applicable emergency and public health guidance, or reasonably believe they are acting in accordance with such guidance, in order to be protected from liability. Conduct that constitutes gross negligence was not protected by any of the orders.

The COVID-19 Related Measures Act, SBC 2020, c 8 (CRMA) came into force on July 10, 2020. The CRMA enacts ministerial orders M094/2020, M120/2020, and M183/2020 as “COVID-19 provisions.” It also extends the effects of M120/2020 and M183/2020 beyond the end of the state of emergency, as follows:

  • M120/2020: 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.
  • M183/2020: 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.

M094/2020 shows in the CRMA as being extended for 45 days beyond the state of emergency, but that was changed by OIC 391/2020 (B.C. Reg 172/2020). That regulation repealed M094/2020 as a “COVID-19” provision (item 6 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA) effective April 21, 2020, which is the day before M120/2020 came into force.

Section 5 of the CRMA allows the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to prescribe who and what acts or omissions are protected from civil liability related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Such regulations can have retroactive effect and can endure for up to a year after the CRMA came into force. The ability to extend protections for up to a year beyond CRMA’s July 10, 2020 in-force date enables government to support a smooth transition out of the state of emergency, to respond to a potential further wave of COVID-19, and to support rebuilding of the economy.

Extending the effects of M120/2020 and M183/2020 beyond the end of the state of emergency was intended to ensure that there would be no gap in liability protection if the state of emergency ended before government could develop a new regulation under the CRMA.

Effect of the COVID-19 (Limits on Actions and Proceedings) Regulation

The Regulation is made under section 5 of CRMA. Under the authority of section 3 (8) (b) of CRMA, M120/2020 and M183/2020 are repealed as “COVID-19 provisions” in Schedule 2 to the CRMA, as the effects of the Regulation are broad enough that they are no longer required.

1. What damages are covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation applies to damages resulting, directly or indirectly, from an individual being or likely being infected with or exposed to SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • This is the same scope of damages as covered by M094/2020, M120/2020, and M183/2020.

2. Which activities are covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation prescribes the following acts in respect of which protection from civil proceedings is available:
    • The operation or provision of an essential service.
    • An activity that has the purpose of benefiting the community or any aspect of the community, including in relation to:
      • the relief of poverty,
      • the advancement of education or religion,
      • the promotion of health,
      • the protection of the environment,
      • the provision of services to a vulnerable or disadvantaged person or group, or
      • the provision of community recreation or leisure activities.
    • An activity, including a business, that is carried on for direct or indirect gain or profit.
  • This list of activities is broader than those that were covered by M094/2020, M120/2020 and M183/2020. For example, the Regulation adds coverage for non-essential businesses, for-profit sport activities, and non-profit activities that are neither essential services nor related to sports.

3. Who is protected by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation provides protection from civil proceedings to any person engaged in a prescribed act that is identified in the Regulation, including if engaging in that act in any capacity on behalf of another person or entity.
  • That means that the Regulation provides protection not only to the directors, proprietors, and primary operators of those activities (i.e. the owners of a business or the directors of a non-profit society), but also to those acting on their behalf, such as employees and volunteers.

4. What conduct is not covered by the Regulation?

  • The Regulation does not cover conduct that constitutes gross negligence.
  • The Regulation does not apply if the person does not follow, or does not reasonably believe they are following, all applicable emergency and public health guidance.
  • The Regulation does not extend to the conduct of private individuals in their personal lives. For example, the Regulation is not intended to extend to activities such as a pick-up soccer game or backyard barbecue with friends.

5. When does the Regulation apply?

  • The Regulation applies retroactively to January 1, 2020 and will remain in force unless and until the CRMA is repealed. The CRMA will be automatically repealed one year after its July 10, 2020 in-force date.
  • The repeal of the CRMA will not affect any protection from civil liability that is acquired under section 5 of the CRMA (see s. 6 of the CRMA).

6. Does the Regulation affect any other protections or defences already available?

  • The regulation is not to be read as affecting, limiting, or abrogating the protection from liability, or other defences from liability, that may otherwise be available to a person or entity.
  • To be clear, this includes other protections or defences available at common law, in another enactment, or in Treaty First Nations’ Final Agreements.

Download a PDF of this Information Bulletin


1 https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/emergency-preparedness-response-recovery/gdx/bcs_restart_plan_web.pdf

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COVID-19 Related Measures Act:

On July 10, 2020, the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8 (CRMA) came into force. The CRMA addresses legal and practical issues related to supporting BC’s Restart Plan for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CRMA:

  1. makes targeted amendments to the Emergency Program Act, RSBC 1996, c. 111 (EPA) to clarify the power of the Minister to make orders under section 10 (1) of the EPA, and elevates the ability to temporarily modify or alter the application of an enactment to the Lieutenant Governor in Council;
  2. provides a temporary legal framework to enact as COVID-19 provisions under the CRMA ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to allow the effects of such orders and regulations to continue after the state of emergency ends; and
  3. protects prescribed persons or classes of persons from proceedings for civil liability for damages related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and provides authority for government to make regulations for that purpose.

Part 2 of the COVID-19 Related Measures Act: COVID-19 Provisions

Purpose

On March 18, 2020, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (Minister) declared a state of emergency under the EPA.

Following the declaration, the Minister made a number of ministerial orders under the EPA to prevent, respond to or alleviate effects of the pandemic. Without the CRMA, those orders would have expired when the provincial state of emergency ends.

The CRMA provides a temporary legal framework to enact ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA during the state of emergency, and to allow for flexibility to extend those orders and regulations beyond the end of the state of emergency. The CRMA, therefore, provides government with the tools it needs to continue to assist and protect British Columbians following the expiry of the state of emergency, and to ensure that British Columbians are not faced with unintended practical and legal consequences.

Effect

Part 2 (COVID-19 Provisions) of the CRMA:

  • Enacts some COVID-19-related ministerial orders or regulations made under section 10 or 10.1 of the EPA as provisions of the CRMA, and simultaneously repeals those orders or regulations under the EPA.
  • Extends some of the ministerial orders made under the EPA during the state of emergency for 45 days or 90 days after the date on which the last extension of the state of emergency expires or is cancelled. The details of which orders have been extended and for how long can be found in sections 3 (5) (a) and (b) of the CRMA and regulations made pursuant to sections 3 (5) (c) and 3 (6).
  • Provides authority for the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations to:
    • provide for a different expiry date for some ministerial orders (i.e., other than 45 or 90 days);
    • add additional COVID-19-related EPA orders or regulations to the Schedules to the CRMA (i.e., to enact them as provisions of the CRMA and extend their application);
    • repeal an order or regulation (or part of one) that was enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

Orders or regulations enacted under the CRMA may be further extended by regulation, for a maximum period of up to one year from the date that the CRMA came into force. The CRMA and any regulations made under it will be automatically repealed on that date.

The details of which orders have been added to the Schedules to CRMA and extended or repealed can be found by reviewing the CRMA and the list of regulations made under the CRMA.

The Minister must report orders and regulations made under section 10 (1) or section 10.1 of the EPA to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly within 5 days of making that order or regulation. Similarly, the Attorney General must report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly within 5 days of making a regulation under the CRMA.

Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation

Contravention of ministerial orders and regulations under the EPA is a ticketable offence. Some of the ministerial orders and regulations made under the EPA have been enacted as provisions of the CRMA. To ensure that the enforcement mechanism continues to apply, OIC 392/2020 amends the Violation Ticket Administration and Fines Regulation under the Offence Act. This ensures that the fines for contravention of a ministerial order or regulation under the EPA continue to apply to contravention of the order or regulation enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

When did the COVID-19 Related Measures Act come into force?

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Links to the CRMA and OIC No. 392/2020:

COVID-19 Related Measures Act:
https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/20008

Order in Council No. 391/2020:
https://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/oic/oic_cur/0391_2020


Download a PDF of this Bulletin

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On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA). Part 2 of the CRMA (COVID-19 Provisions) provides a temporary legal framework to enact and extend the duration of ministerial orders made under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Background

On March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General (“Solicitor General”) issued Ministerial Order MO86 under the EPA, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order (“Limitations Order #1”), regarding mandatory limitation periods and mandatory time periods.

On April 8, 2020, the Solicitor General made Ministerial Order M098, the Limitation Periods (COVID-19) Order No. 2 (“Limitations Order #2”), which repealed and replaced Limitations Order #1 on April 15, 2020.

Purpose of Limitation Order #2

As with the now-repealed Limitations Order #1, the purposes of Limitations Order #2 were to:

  • protect public health by suspending or enabling the suspension of time periods in legal and administrative proceedings, as it may not be possible for a person involved to take steps required by legislation; and
  • avoid the problems that a delay of proceedings may cause to a person seeking to enforce their legal rights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and necessary public health measures taken in response to it during the public state of emergency.

Limitations Order #2 also addressed unintended consequences to the construction industry as a result of the suspension of time periods to commence a court proceeding.

Effect of Part 2 of the CRMA on Limitation Orders #1 and #2

Limitations Order #1

The CRMA:

  • enacts Limitations Order #1 as a provision of the CRMA, effective March 26, 2020;
  • repeals Limitations Order #1 as a ministerial order under the EPA; and repeals the enactment of Limitation Order #1 as a provision of the CRMA, effective April 14, 2020 by OIC 391/2020, made July 10, 2020.

Limitations Order #2

The CRMA:

  • enacts Limitations Order #2 as a provision of the CRMA effective April 8, 2020 and extends its application for a further period of 90 days from the coming into force of the CRMA; and
  • repeals Limitations Order #2 as a ministerial order under the EPA.

Therefore, under the CRMA:

Limitations Order #1, enacted as a provision of the CRMA, is in effect from March 26, 2020 to April 14, 2020; and

Limitations Order #2, enacted as a provision of the CRMA:

  • is in effect from April 15, 2020, until 90 days after the last extension of the declaration of the COVID-19-related state of emergency expires or is cancelled;
  • can be further extended by regulation; and
  • is identical in purpose to Limitations Order #2.

BC Reg. 199/2020 – COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation:

On August 4, 2020, the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, BC. Reg. 199/2020 was made under the EPA and the CRMA. The regulation does as follows:

  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (a) of the CRMA, repeals section 2 of Item 7 in Schedule 2 to the CRMA (Limitations Order #2). The remainder of that item is unaffected.
  • Creates a new regulation under s. 10.1 of the EPA that replicates the section repealed above but separates each level of court into its own paragraph.
  • Breaking each level of court into a separate paragraph in the new regulation, as opposed to listing them all in the same sentence, will allow flexibility to set unique end dates for the suspension for each level of court, as appropriate in the circumstances.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (8) (b) of the CRMA, adds this new regulation made under s. 10.1 of the EPA to Schedule 2 of the CRMA.
  • Under the authority of s. 3 (5) (c) of the CRMA, extends the effects of the new EPA regulation for 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Court of Appeal, and for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency in respect of the Provincial Court and Supreme Court.
  • There are no changes to the breadth of the suspension of limitation periods and other mandatory time periods from Limitations Order #2. There is also no change to the exemption of the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 [Builders Liens and Other Charges] of Part 5 [Property] of the Strata Property Act. The only net effect is a change to the end date for the suspension in respect of the Court of Appeal, from 90 to 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency

How is your limitation period or other mandatory time period affected?

Limitations Order #1 and Limitations Order #2 (including when enacted as COVID-19 provisions) and the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation (including when enacted as a COVID-19 provision) serve to suspend the limitation periods and other mandatory time periods to which they apply. Accordingly, in calculating the end date of your limitation period or other time period, you do not count the days on which the applicable provisions were in force.

For example, if you had five days remaining in your limitation period before Limitations Order #1 came into force, then you would still have five days remaining, starting on the day after the applicable paragraph of subsection 1 (1) of the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation (as enacted as a COVID-19 provision) is repealed. The repeal dates for the provisions in that regulation that apply to each level of court are specified in OIC 453/2020 (BC Reg. 199/2020).

As of August 4, 2020, OIC 453/2020 (BC Reg. 199/2020) extends periods for commencing proceedings in the Court of Appeal for 45 days beyond the end of the state of emergency, and periods for commencing proceedings in the Supreme Court or Provincial Court for 90 days beyond the end of the state of emergency.


Download a PDF of this Bulletin

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On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act (CRMA). Part 2 of the CRMA (COVID-19 Provisions) provides a temporary legal framework to enact and extend the duration of ministerial orders or regulations made under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CRMA came into force on July 10, 2020.

Effect of Part 2 of the CRMA on the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order (M162)

Background

On May 19, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Ministerial Order M162 under the EPA, the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order (Electronic Witnessing Order).

The Electronic Witnessing Order provides that during the COVID-19 state of emergency:

  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement may be signed and witnessed while the witness and the person making or signing the document are in each others’ electronic presence, so long as the witness is a lawyer or notary public; and
  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement may be signed in counterpart.

Effect of Part 2 (COVID-19 Provisions) of the CRMA

The CRMA:

  • enacts the Electronic Witnessing Order as a provision of the CRMA, effective May 19, 2020 and extends its application for a further period of 90 days after the end of the state of emergency that was declared on March 18, 2020;
  • permits the Lieutenant Governor in Council, by regulation, to extend the operation of the Electronic Witnessing Order as a provision of the CRMA, for up to one year; and
  • repeals the Electronic Witnessing Order as a ministerial order under the EPA.

References to “this order” in the Electronic Witnessing Order, enacted as a provision of the CRMA.

Section 3 (8) of the Electronic Witnessing Order provides as follows (underlining added):

(8) An enduring power of attorney made in accordance with this order must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with this order.

Similarly, section 4 (7) of the Electronic Witnessing Order provides (underlining added):\

(7) A representation agreement made in accordance with this order must include a statement that it was signed and witnessed in accordance with this order.

The Electronic Witnessing Order is now enacted as a provision of the CRMA, continuing the requirements of sections 3 (8) and 4 (7). Government takes the position that:

  • to comply with these requirements, a statement pursuant to sections 3 (8) and 4 (7) could be phrased as being signed and witnessed "in accordance with the Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order as enacted by the COVID-19 Related Measures Act" (underlining for emphasis only);
  • an enduring power of attorney or representation agreement made on or after July 10, 2020 (the day the CRMA came into force) should reference the CRMA. However, as M162 has been enacted as a provision of CRMA, a purposive and liberal interpretation suggests that reference to M162 is adequate; and
  • the repeal of the Electronic Witnessing Order as a ministerial order under the EPA does not impact the validity of enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements made pursuant to that Order (i.e., prior to the coming into force of the CRMA).

The CRMA does not enact the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order

Background

On May 19, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued Ministerial Order M161 under the EPA, the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order.

The CRMA does not enact the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order; it will be repealed when Bill 21, the Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020, is brought into force or expire when the Declaration of Emergency ends, whichever comes first.

Bill 21, the Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020

When brought into force, the amendments made by Bill 21 will allow wills to be executed and witnessed while the will-maker and witnesses are in each others’ electronic presence. Therefore, remote witnessing of wills will continue beyond the expiry of the state of emergency. The sections of Bill 21 that permit wills to be made in electronic form will be brought into force by regulation, once the Supreme Court probate rules have been updated to address the filing of electronic wills.

Bill 21 contains transitional provisions that provide that a will that was remotely witnessed after March 18, 2020, is valid. Therefore, the legislation will replace the temporary remote witnessing provisions in the Electronic Witnessing of Wills (COVID-19) Order (M161) and will also validate wills that were remotely witnessed between March 18, 2020, and the issuance of M161. Government’s position is that remotely witnessed wills that reference M161 do not need to be changed.

Wills, Estates and Succession Amendment Act, 2020 (third reading, Bill 21 - 2020):
https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/5th-session/bills/third-reading/gov21-3


Download a PDF of this Bulletin

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From the Ministry of Attorney General

Working with the judiciary and other justice and public safety-sector stakeholders, government is moving to safely support increased in-person hearings.

“COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for court users and justice sector partners,” said David Eby, Attorney General. “Working with the judiciary, we are assessing courthouses to determine the best approach to protect the health of court users. Each courthouse is different, but this might mean measures such as marking floors to indicate distances in lines at registry, elevators, washrooms and inside courtrooms, and disinfecting courtrooms after use.”

Courthouses and courtrooms throughout the province are being assessed to ensure they meet the health and safety requirements established by the provincial health officer and WorkSafeBC. Assessments will also determine what additional physical distancing and hygiene measures will be required to stop the transmission of COVID-19, prior to resuming in-person appearances. Plans may differ by location and courthouse configuration.

As part of these assessments, additional health and safety measures being considered include, but are not limited to:

  • reconfiguring and removing furniture to open space in courtrooms and to keep people physically distant from one another;
  • adjusting maximum occupant levels to account for physical distancing requirements;
  • marking floors to indicate the directional flow of movement and places to stand while maintaining appropriate physical distancing at the registry, in elevators and washrooms, and inside courtrooms and courthouses;
  • posting clear and visible signage throughout the courthouse and courtrooms to ensure court personnel and users are aware of and are able to follow health and safety protocols;
  • verbally screening court personnel and users for COVID-19 symptoms or exposure prior to entering court environments;
  • establishing protocols for handling documents and evidence;
  • installing hand sanitizer stations at courthouse entrances, outside courtrooms and in elevator lobbies;
  • placing hand sanitizer bottles in courtrooms at the dais, counsel desks, the witness stand and the clerk's desk;
  • disinfecting courtrooms after use; and
  • frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces in courtrooms and in public areas throughout the courthouses.

The ministry is in the process of meeting with stakeholders, including judges, counsel, court managers and others, to make recommendations and implement changes necessary to keep the public safe when attending court. 

This work is occurring now, with the expectation that within the next few weeks, a limited number of courtrooms will be available throughout the province for in-person hearings

The ministry has also been working to increase technology enhancements outlined in the Court Digital Transformation Strategy. This includes continued expansion of technology for virtual hearings in cases where it is deemed appropriate.

In addition, the Province has also established two advisory groups to help government support courts and tribunals in delivering services as effectively as possible during the pandemic, and in minimizing its impact on the justice system.

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ORDER OF THE MINISTER OF
PUBLIC SAFETY AND SOLICITOR GENERAL

Emergency Program Act

Ministerial Order No. M162

WHEREAS a declaration of a state of emergency throughout the whole of the Province of British Columbia was declared on March 18, 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic;

AND WHEREAS individuals in British Columbia must be able to make enduring powers of attorney and representation agreements in a manner that reduces the threat of COVID-19 to the health and safety of persons;

AND WHEREAS section 10 (1) of the Emergency Program Act provides that I may do all acts and implement all procedures that I consider necessary to prevent, respond to or alleviate the effects of any emergency or disaster;

I, Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, order that the attached Electronic Witnessing of Enduring Powers of Attorney and Representation Agreements (COVID-19) Order is made.

Download the Ministerial Order.

Court of Appeal for BC
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This Notice replaces the Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal for British Columbia’s Response to COVID-19 issued 22 July 2020. The suspension of service and filing deadlines has been extended from 19 August 2020 to 14 September 2020. The suspension of service and filing deadlines will not be further extended.

1. Introduction

On 17 March 2020, 30 March 2020, 20 April 2020, 27 May 2020, 10 June 2020, 24 June 2020, 7 July 2020, 22 July 2020 and 4 August 2020, the Chief Justice of British Columbia issued directions modifying the operations of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia to protect the health of litigants, court staff, judges and members of the public and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

This new notice, which applies to civil and criminal appeals, replaces the 17 March, 30 March, 20 April, 27 May, 10 June, 24 June, 7 July, 22 July and 4 August notices,and extends the suspension of service and filing deadlines to 14 September 2020. The suspension of filing and service deadlines for existing appeals will not be further extended. In particular:

1.1 Suspension of service and filing deadlines

The suspension of service and filing deadlines for existing appeals and chambers applications started 18 March 2020 and has been extended from 19 August 2020 to 14 September 2020.The suspension of service and filing deadlines will not be further extended.

1.2 Requests for in-courtroom or video hearings

Parties may now request that their appeal hearing proceed in a courtroom or by Zoom videoconference. Please see 3.3 below for more information.

1.3 Continuation of court operations

Despite the suspension of service and filing deadlines being extended until 14 September 2020, the following information has not changed:

  • The registry is accepting filings in all matters,and parties are encouraged to advance their appeals if they are able to do so. All litigants and counsel should note that the suspension of service and filing deadlines will not be further extended after 14 September 2020.
  • In civil appeals, electronic filing remains mandatory for counsel and optional for self represented litigants. Section 3.2 below has been repealed and replaced with the updated instructions on filing materials in all appeals and applications provided in this new Notice to the Public Regarding Modified Filing Directions.
  • The Court will hear all chambers applications and Registrar’s appointments, including those that are not urgent, by teleconference or in writing. For all new chambers applications or appointments, litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelines required under the Court of Appeal Act, Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, the Court of Appeal Criminal Rules and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives.

2. New Appeals and Applications for Leave to Appeal

2.1 Required Time Periods to Commence Civil or Family Proceedings

The required time periods to commence civil or family proceedings stopped running on 26 March 2020. For further details review Ministerial Order No. M098. This means that until further notice you may start an appeal if you wish to do so, but, if you are unable to start an appeal, you can wait without concern that the limitation period to start civil or family proceedings will expire.

The suspension of time periods started on 26 March 2020 and will remain in effect until the state of emergency declared under s. 9(1) of the Emergency Program Act on 18 March 2020 expires or is cancelled. This means that any notice of appeal or application for leave to appeal that needed to be filed before 26 March 2020 is still subject to the usual timeline to initiate, including those that needed to be filed between 18 March 2020 and 26 March 2020.

2.2 Required Time Periods to Commence Criminal Proceedings

Parties should continue to file and serve notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal in criminal matters within required time periods.

3. Existing Appeals and Applications

3.1 Filing and Service Deadlines

The filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, and other existing matters before the Court were suspended by direction of the Chief Justice and they will remain suspended until 14 September 2020. This means that the required time periods to file or serve materials stopped running on 18 March 2020 and will not start to run again until 14 September 2020. Beginning 14 September you will have the same amount of time to file and serve materials as you would have been entitled to on 18 March 2020.

For clarity, the Chief Justice has further directed that the operation of s. 25 of the Court of Appeal Act is also suspended from 18 March 2020 until 14 September, meaning that matters will not be placed on the inactive list or dismissed as abandoned by operation of s. 25 during this period.

Neither the direction of the Chief Justice effective 18 March 2020 nor Ministerial Order No. M098 suspends the timelines for taking a step required by court order or direction. However, counsel/litigants can expect the Court will likely consider the exceptional circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic as a factor if an extension is sought.

Despite the suspension of deadlines until 14 September, the registry is accepting filings in all matters, including matters that are not urgent. Parties are encouraged to advance their appeals and to communicate with one another on how they will proceed.​

3.2 How to File Documents and Materials

Section 3.2 of this Notice has been repealed and replaced with the court’s Notice to the Public Regarding Modified Filing Directions in Civil and Criminal Appeals.

3.3 Appeal Hearings

Since early April, the Court has conducted most appeals by video conference. As of 13 July 2020, however, the Court can accommodate appeal hearings in the courtroom or by video conference subject to the limitations explained below. The parties may also consent to have their appeal conducted solely in writing by submitting a request to the Registrar indicating their consent.

The Court appreciates that during the COVID 19 pandemic the preference of counsel/litigant(s) as to mode of hearing may relate to personal circumstances. The Court does not generally wish to play a role in deciding between the alternatives, although the Court may exercise its discretion to direct the mode of hearing.

3.3.1 Court Proceedings Form - Preferred Mode of Hearing

In order to permit efficient scheduling, the Court requires that at least seven days before an appeal hearing, counsel/litigant(s) file a “Court Proceedings Form” described below. Before completing the Form counsel/litigants are encouraged to consult and reach consensus on the mode of hearing to be selected.

Where one counsel/litigant would prefer a video hearing, no reason need be disclosed to the Registry or to the other counsel/litigant(s); in this instance, regardless of whether consensus has been reached, the Court will allow the hearing to proceed by video conference absent extraordinary circumstances.

Where all litigants would prefer an in-courtroom hearing, the Court will allow the hearing to proceed in a courtroom unless social distancing guidelines cannot be met or unless there are other factors that make an in-courtroom hearing unsuitable or impractical.

Counsel/litigants must submit the Court Proceedings Form to advise the Court:

  1. the preferred mode of hearing (in-courtroom or video);
  2. who will be attending the hearing;
  3. for video hearings, any concerns about the privacy or confidentiality of information that will be involved in the video proceeding;
  4. for video hearings, any personal concerns about attending by video; and
  5. for video hearings, proposed steps to mitigate any of the concerns identified.

At the appeal hearing, counsel/litigants must expect to address the nature and terms of any publication bans or sealing orders (including who is subject to such orders).

3.3.2 Hearings in a Courtroom

The Court has made adjustments to the physical facilities at the courthouse to ensure hearings will comply with public safety guidelines. At this time, all hearings in a courtroom will take place in courtrooms 50 or 60 with a maximum of four lawyers or self-represented litigants attending at one time. Parties should be aware that because of social distancing guidelines, usually no more than seven observers may be accommodated in the courtroom.

Counsel/litigant(s) are asked to advise the registry immediately if unexpected circumstances related to the COVID-19 virus arise prior to the hearing, such that a counsel/litigant prefers a switch to a video conference hearing. No reason need be provided to the Registry and the Court will endeavor to accommodate such a switch. A request for such accommodation should be made as early as possible but may be made right up until the morning of the hearing.

Persons in the courtroom are not required to wear masks, but everyone may of course do so, except when addressing the Court at the hearing. Counsel/litigants must bring their own water supply and present their arguments from their own table (individual lecterns will be provided). Furniture will be cleaned and disinfected between hearings.

The Court Services Branch has developed health and safety protocols which apply to all public spaces of the courthouse. All people attending are asked to be familiar with these protocols and to cooperate in observing them.

3.3.3 Video Conference Hearings

Video conference hearings will proceed using Zoom, a commercial service that has been employed successfully in conducting hearings in other Canadian courts.

Instructions on videoconference logistics and Court etiquette are provided in this Notice to the Public regarding video conference proceedings. Parties will be expected to become familiar and test their video and audio capabilities using the Zoom platform before any court hearing.

3.3.4 Access to Hearings

Members of the media or public wishing to access hearing in a courtroom or by video conference, should see the Notice to the Public regarding access to court proceedings.

3.4 Chambers Hearings

All chambers applications will proceed by teleconference unless otherwise directed. For all new chambers applications, counsel/litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelinesrequired under the Court of Appeal Act, Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, the Court of Appeal Criminal Rules and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives. Chambers applications may also proceed in writing by approval of the Court on consent request addressed to the Registrar.

The Court’s capacity to hear a full chambers list may remain compromised. As such:

  • Counsel/litigants should coordinate with one another before filing a chambers application and should be prepared to meet all subsequent filing and service deadlines set out in the Court of Appeal Act and Rules.
  • Counsel/litigants must check the online list of available dates before filing a chambers application in accordance with Booking Civil Chambers Applications (Civil Practice Note, 8 May 2017), and should check again just before e-filing.
  • Counsel/litigants should be patient with the occasional need to re-book chambers applications to other dates, given expected demands. The chambers scheduler, as a Deputy Registrar, has the final say on the reassignment of dates, if necessary (no appeals to the Registrar).

Given the need to conduct chambers matters by teleconference and get materials to the presiding judge, the late filing of chambers materials will not be permitted.

3.5 Hearings before the Registrar

All hearings set to proceed before the Registrar will proceed by Zoom, teleconference, in writing, or as directed by the Registrar. As with chambers, for all new appointments, counsel/litigants must file and serve materials according to the timelines required under the Court of Appeal Act and Court of Appeal Rules, Criminal Code, Court of Appeal Criminal Rules,and the Court’s Civil and Criminal Practice Directives. Counsel/litigants may also request or consent to an appointment being heard in writing only.

4. Self-Represented Litigants

Self-represented litigants are expected to comply with the modified processes set out in this notice.

Access Pro-Bono has a dedicated appeals program. If you require assistance contact Heather Wojcik 604-424-8286. You can also visit accessprobono.ca or call 604-878-7400 or 1-877-762-6664 to find out more information about Access Pro-Bono emergency telephone clinics that have been set up in response to COVID-19.

Additionally, anyone e-filing materials in the Court of Appeal or preparing to appear before the Court by Zoom video conference may contact the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch at members@cbabc.org for technical support with managing PDF Adobe or Zoom video conference software.

5. Registry Contact Information

General Inquiries: 604.660.2468
Maria Littlejohn, Court Scheduler: 604.660.2865
Manjit Gunglay, Chambers Scheduler: 604.660.2859
Kristine Dhamrait, Registrar Scheduler: 604.660.2729
Fax filings: 604.660.1951

Mail or Courier: Vancouver Registry

The Registry Counter will be open unless required to be closed in particular COVID-19-related circumstances. Before attending at the Registry Counter, please check HERE to confirm whether it is open or closed.

If the Registry Counter is open:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
400 – 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2C5

If the Registry Counter is closed due to COVID-19:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
206 - 800 Smithe Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2E1

Dated 19 August 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

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1. Introduction

This Notice provides directions on filing documents in civil and criminal appeals. Beginning 14 July 2020 this Notice rescinds and replaces the directions described in section 3.2 of the Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal’s Response to Covid-19 dated 7 July 2020.

Beginning 14 July 2020, and despite Rule 54.1(5), all documents in civil appeals must be electronically filedby counsel using Court Services Online (CSO). Paper, fax, or email filings described in Section 3.8 of this notice are permitted only in the following cases:

  • Self-represented litigants, who are encouraged but not required to use the e-filing system;
  • Any civil appeals involving publication bans or sealing orders;
  • Any document in civil chambers that exceeds 300 pages;
  • Any document in a civil appeal larger than 100MB in size;
  • Condensed books filed in advance of the hearing of a civil appeal in accordance with Section 3.6 below;
  • Any other documents as may be directed by the Registrar to be filed in paper in larger appeals where the record exceeds, or is expected to exceed, 8,000 pages.

As e-filing remains unsupported for criminal appeals, any criminal filings must be received in paper, by fax, or by email as described in section 3.8 below.

2. Mandatory e-Filing for Counsel in Civil Appeals

2.1 Getting Started: Obtain a Court Services Online (CSO) Account

Parties who have never used electronic filing must create a BCeID account (either a Basic or Business account) or a BC Online account and register it with Court Services Online. Anyone having difficulty with electronic filing should contact Court Services Online Support either by email Courts.CSO@gov.bc.ca or call toll free within Canada 1-800-663-6102 for assistance. Please do not contact the registry for assistance with electronic filing. The registry will not be able to assist you.

2.2 Formatting Requirements for e-Filed Documents

All documents filed through Court Services Online (CSO) must be in Portable Document Format (PDF) and must comply with the following requirements:

  • Be Less than 100MB in Size: Limitations to the e-filing system do not allow documents larger than 100MB to be filed;
  • True Copies: Provide a legibly reproduced true representation (i.e., an identical or true copy) of the original document, whether that original is scanned from paper or saved into PDF from another program, such as Microsoft Word;
  • Comply with Court Forms: Format documents in accordance with court forms , except for certain paper-based requirements that are dispensed with as described below in Section 2.3;
  • Page Numbered: Number pages so that the PDF page numbering matches the actual page numbering of the document (i.e. PDF page “25” of the electronic appeal book brings up page “25.” To achieve this, do not assign page numbers to the title page, instead assign “page 1” to the first page of argument/content). Place PDF page numbers in the top centre of each page;
  • Avoid Scanning: Only scan documents where necessary. Do not scan factums, submissions or other documents that have been created electronically because hyperlinks will be lost. If scanning is necessary because the original document is in paper, the scan must be Optical Character Recognized (OCR’ed) so that the PDF can be copied and pasted into another document;
  • Do not Enable Security Settings: Do not incorporate any file properties or activate any security settings that might restrict or prevent the Court from viewing, printing, saving, annotating, or searching the electronic document;
  • Hyperlinked Index and PDF Bookmarks: Any indexes prescribed by Court forms must be hyperlinked to the contents of the document. Any document over 50 pages must also include PDF bookmarks. Such bookmarks must consistently, meaningfully, and clearly describe the individual documents or sections of the document. For example, it is not acceptable in an affidavit to bookmark to “Exhibit 1,” Exhibit 2” etc. The index should describe the contents of each section: e.g.: “Exhibit 1 – Letter from John to Jane Doe.” The document must be set to open the bookmarks automatically on opening the file.

There is no requirement to internally hyperlink different filings (i.e. hyperlink a factum to an appeal book)and the e-filing system does not currently support this capability. Case authorities in factums, statements or submissions may continue to be hyperlinked externally (i.e. to pdf versions of CanLII decisions); however, the Court will now also require a complete PDF book of authorities.

Court of Appeal guides for using Adobe DC Pro to meet these requirements are available here. There are also many low-cost or free alternatives to the Adobe software. Additionally, anyone preparing PDF documents to file with the Court of Appeal can email the Canadian Bar Association BC branch at members@cbabc.org for assistance using Adobe software to meet the above requirements.

2.3 Changes to Court Rules and Directivesfor e-Filed Documents

This Notice changes several rules and requirements related to service and filing for civil appeals. All requirements set out in the Court of Appeal Rules and Practice Directives that cannot be met when documents are filed electronically, (e.g. requirements to file copies of documents, or to bind documents like the factum in specific ways) are suspended. For greater certainty, the following requirements are suspended:

  • Volumes: There is no need to split files less than 100 megabytes into 300/200 page “volumes.” For example, a book of authorities should be a sequentially numbered single PDF file of less than 100MB, not split into multiple 200 page files;
  • Use Alternative Forms of Signature: Except for affidavits, orders, and statutory declarations, documents filed solely with a typewritten signature (e.g., "Joan Smith") satisfy the signature requirement. Alternatively, scanned signatures are acceptable for all documents, including affidavits, orders and statutory declarations;
  • No Transcript Extract Books: Do not file a Transcript Extract Book under Rule 27. The parties mustuse the condensed book process described in section 3.6 below;
  • No Coloured Covers: Coloured covers of books or documents are not required;
  • Limited Retention of Paper Versions: The requirement to retain the paper version of the document submitted electronically under Rules 54.1 (6), (7), or (9) is modified. If the party can prove, to the satisfaction of the Court, that the record has been securely kept in electronic format (such as PDF/A), the party only needs to retain the electronic version.

In addition, the following Practice Directives do not apply to electronic filings:

3. Limitations and Exceptions to E-Filing

3.1 Optional E-Filing for Self-Represented Litigants

Self-represented litigants are encouraged to electronically file their records in accordance with the terms of this directive. However, self represented litigants may also file using the methods described insection 3.8. Access Pro-Bono has a dedicated appeals program. If you require assistance contact Heather Wojcik 604-424-8286. You can also visit www.accessprobono.ca or call 604-878-7400 or 1-877-762-6664 to find out more information about Access Pro-Bono emergency telephone clinics that have been set up in response to COVID-19.

3.2 No e-Filing in Criminal Appeals

Court Services Online (CSO) is presently unable to accept criminal appeals for electronic filing. File using the methods described in section 3.8.

3.3 Limited e-Filing in Civil Appeals Involving Publication Bans or Sealing Orders

Parties may optionally file the Notice of Appeal or Notice of Application for Leave to Appeal electronically using Court Services Online (CSO). Include a letter within the e-filing package that describes the exact nature of any publication bans or sealing orders (as required by Publication Bans and Sealing Orders (Civil Practice Directive, 4 June 2018)). However, all subsequent filings must use the methods described in section 3.8 below.

3.4 No e-Filing for Documents that Exceed 300 Pages in Civil Chambers

No document may be electronically filed in chambers if that document exceeds 300 pages. If the document exceeds this size, it must be filed in paper (in person or by courier/agent) in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

3.5 No e-Filing Documents Exceeding 100MB in Civil Appeals

Court Services Online (CSO) has a 100MB limit on the size of electronically filed documents. This size limitation will cover about 80% of the Court’s electronic filings. If the document is larger than 100 MB, the material cannot be electronically filed and must be submitted in paper in accordance with Section 3.8 below. Do not attempt to file multiple volumes of a document through the e-filing system or file a portion electronically and a portion in paper. For larger appeals in excess of 8,000 pages, see Section 4 below.

3.6 Mandatory Condensed Books in Civil Appeals

For civil appeals where factums, transcripts, or appeal books have been e-filed, parties must file paper copies of a condensed book for the Court to use in the appeal hearing in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

Parties should file three (3) copies and serve their condensed books on the opposing parties at least seven (7) business days before the hearing of the appeal. The requirement in Condensed Books (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 19 September 2011) that they be handed up in Court is dispensed with. The Condensed Book may contain documents essential to the hearing, but only those that must be physically shown to the Court, including those excerpts from transcript, appeal book and authorities that the party will refer to in its oral argument.

3.7 Limitations on e-Filing of Electronic Media in Civil Appeals (Soundand Video Exhibits)

Occasionally, there may be a need to include electronic media in appeal books, such as audio or video recordings. The process for doing this with paper filings is described in Electronic Media in Appeal Books (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 13 May 2016). Presently, the e-filing system will not allow parties to embed multimedia within PDF documents. Accordingly, parties must indicate in the appeal book index that electronic media is being submitted separately and must submit the related electronic media by providing four identical memory sticks (labeled with the appeal file number #CAXXXXX). These may be submitted in accordance with Section 3.8 below.

3.8 Fax, Paper,and Email Filings (Only Where Permitted by Sections 3.1 –3.7)

For those exceptions outlined in sections 3.1 to 3.7 only, parties may file documents in the following ways:

  • By Fax: In the case of filings that are less than 20 pages, by fax in accordance with Use of Facsimile in the Court of Appeal (Civil & Criminal Practice Directive, 19 September 2011), with the understanding that the prohibition on filing bound materials does not apply;
  • By Email: For Factums, statements, transcripts, appeal records, and appeal books only, by sending PDF copies less than 25MB by e-mail to CACounter@bccourts.ca. Any emailed documents must observe all requirements in Section 2.2 above, including those filed by self-represented litigants.
  • Paper Copies in Person or by Mail/Courier/Agent: Please check here to determine whether the registry counter is open for business or closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. If the registry counter is open, documents must be filed at 400 – 800 Hornby Street. If the Registry counter is closed, documents must be filed at 206 - 800 Smithe Street. Note the registry may not process these filings for at least 24 hours, given COVID-19 risks, but will backdate documents to the date they were postmarked or delivered. Please do not deliver any copies besides those required by the Court. You will receive an email attaching a scan of the stamped cover page as confirmation that the document is filed and, for that purpose, you must provide an email address on the cover of the document to be filed. You should serve the remaining copies of your document together with a copy of the stamped cover page.

4. Case Management of Larger Appeals

If an appeal involves, or is anticipated to involve, more than 8,000 pages of material, parties must seek directions from the Registrar as soon as possible and not less than 90 days prior to the hearing of the appeal.

5. Registry Contact Information

General Inquiries: 604.660.2468
Maria Littlejohn, Court Scheduler: 604.660.2865
Manjit Gunglay, Chambers Scheduler: 604.660.2859
Kristine Dhamrait, Registrar Scheduler: 604.660.2729
Fax filings: 604.660.1951

Mail or Courier to the Vancouver Registry (check here to see if the Registry is open or closed during regular hours)

If the Registry Counter is open:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
400 – 800 Hornby Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2C5

If the Registry Counter is closed due to COVID-19:

BC Court of Appeal
The Law Courts
206 - 800 Smithe Street
Vancouver, British Columbia
V6Z 2E1

Dated 7 July 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

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Note: this Notice replaces the Notice to the Public Regarding Access to Court Proceedings During the COVID-19 Pandemic dated 14 May 2020

Introduction

In the 7 July 2020 Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal's Response to COVID-19, Chief Justice Bauman directed that, beginning 13 July 2020, the Court of Appeal will be in a position to hear all appeals by video conference or in the courtroom, in consideration of the preference of the litigants/counsel, unless social distancing guidelines cannot be met or unless there are other factors that make an in-courtroom hearing unsuitable or impractical. All chambers applications and Registrar’sappointments will continue to be conducted by teleconference or in writing, unless otherwise directed.

The Court of Appeal is taking the following steps to ensure that accredited media and other members of the public have access to, and can observe, court proceedings during this exceptional time. The Court of Appeal is committed to the open court principle and will be examining additional steps to ensure all members of the media and public can access Court proceedings. The Court asks for patience as it works to fulfill its appellate function and Constitutional functions while adopting new technology and procedures.

Access to Video and Teleconference Proceedings

The Court’s weekly hearing list and chambers list are updated daily and indicate which matters areproceeding by video conference, in the courtroom or by teleconference.

Access to Video Conference Proceedings

To observe matters proceeding by video conference click on the public link provided on the Court’s weekly hearing list. This will allow you to join the video conference as an observer live from your device. Note that the public link may not be posted until the morning the video conference is set to proceedand, if you do not already have the Zoom application downloaded on your device, you can follow the prompts to install it, or join the meeting over the web. In order to maintain appropriate decorum during a video conference proceeding, the judges and the people making submissions to the court will not be able to see or hear the people observing.

Access to Hearings in the Courtroom

To observe matters proceeding in the courtroom, check the Court’s weekly hearing list or on the bulletin board in the lobby at 800 Smithe. The lists will indicate the name of the proceeding, the mode of hearingand, if applicable, the courtroom number.

The Court has made adjustments to the physical facilities in the courtrooms to ensure hearings will comply with public safety guidelines. At this time, all in-courtroom hearings will take place in courtrooms 50 or 60. Anyone wishing to observe a hearing in a courtroom should be aware that because of social distancing guidelines, usually no more than seven observers may be accommodated at one time. For appeals anticipated to draw a large number of observers, the Court will consider proceeding by videoconference in order to ensure people wishing to observe are able to do so.

The Court Services Branch has developed health and safety protocols which apply to all public spaces of the courtroom. All people attending are asked to be familiar with these protocols and to cooperate in observing them.

Access to Teleconference Proceedings

To observe matters proceeding by teleconference submit a Request to Attend Teleconference Proceedings no later than 12 noon the day before the hearing date. Late requests cannot be processed in time to respond with the dial-in information you will need.

The number of callers that can be connected through a single teleconference number is limited and priority will be given to parties to the proceeding and members of accredited media. More than one person may listen to the proceeding from a single phone.

Note that counsel are permitted to share connection details with their co-counsel and clients if they will be listening from separate phones, however, connection details should not be shared with anyone else. Counsel are asked to inform the registry if they require connections for more than 10 separate telephones.

In order to maintain appropriate decorum during a teleconference proceeding you must dial into the teleconference at the set time. The court will not disrupt ongoing proceedings to connect you. Additionally, anyone observing must mute their microphone so as to limit the possibility of disruptions from background noise.

Policy on use of electronic devices in courtrooms

The Court's Policy on the use of electronic devices in courtrooms applies to all court proceedings including those conducted remotely by video or teleconference. This means that members of accredited media may audio record proceedings for the limited purpose of verifying their notes. Any other audio or video recording of the proceeding including screen shots or other photographs is prohibited. Anyone who uses an electronic device in a manner prohibited by the policy is subject to sanction, including prosecution for contempt of court.

Media Participation in Court Proceedings

In any appeals where the media wishes to make submissions, such as where a publication ban is opposed or challenged, accommodations for participation will be arranged in the same manner as for other parties, detailed in the Court’s Notice to the Public Regarding the Court of Appeal's Response to COVID-19 dated 7 July 2020.

Media Access to Digital Audio Recordings (DARS)

Any requests for access to court audio recordings (post-hearing) by accredited media should be made by completing the usual access to audio request form and attaching a remote access to DARS undertaking to the automatically generated email before submitting the request. Requests will be processed by Court Services Branch personnel in the usual manner. If access is granted the requestor will receive an email confirmation and a link to a digital FTP site to remotely access the requested audio recording.

Access to Court Records

The Court will continue processing requests for access to the court record in the usual manner as prescribed under the Court of Appeal’s Record and Courtroom Access Policy.

Dated 7 July 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Robert J. Bauman
Chief Justice of British Columbia

Supreme Court of BC
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COVID-19 Notice No. 41
Date: September 21, 2020

This notice replaces COVID-19 Notice No. 39 – Civil Jury Selections and Trials.

I. Introduction

Effective March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. As part of the suspension, the Court cancelled civil jury selections and civil jury trials up to and including January 1,2021, everywhere in the province.

II. Civil Jury Trial Rules Suspended until October 4, 2021

Effective September 28, 2020, the Supreme Court Civil Rules have been amended to temporarily suspend civil jury trials, and the operation of related rules, up to and including October 3, 2021. For more details about the changes, please see Order-in-Council No. 517/20, available here.

The new rules provide that civil jury trials scheduled to be heard before October 4, 2021 will automatically proceed by judge alone, regardless of whether a party filed or served a jury notice or paid jury fees.

The new rules also provide that, unless the Court otherwise orders, a party must not apply for an adjournment of a trial because the party may want to require that the trial be heard by the Court with a jury.

Civil jury trials will resume on October 4, 2021. The Court will provide further direction closer to that date.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated September 21, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Notice No. 27
Date: Revised September 1, 2020

Highlighted changes:

  • Part II has been revised to address travel outside Canada.

Supreme Court of British Columbia trials will resume on June 8, 2020 in a number of courthouse locations. Changes to court configurations and some in-court processes are required to comply with public health directives and orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Provincial Government has retained the services of a private consultant to assist in identifying the necessary steps to modify courtrooms and courthouses to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s information about COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations summarizing the steps taken to ensure everyone’s safety in courthouses and courtrooms, including the steps they are taking regarding the screening process for people entering courthouses, cleaning protocols, and physical distancing protocols inside the courthouse.

Certain general precautions will apply to all in person court hearings, appearances and trials. Judges, masters and registrars have the discretion to direct more detailed precautions depending on the circumstances of a particular court hearing. These measures are subject to change without notice as the Court receives further guidance and direction from public health authorities.

I. Trial Management Conferences, Pre-Trial Conferences and Other Pre-hearing Conferences

Counsel and self-represented parties at a trial management conference (“TMC”), a criminal pre-trial conference (“PTC”) or any other type of pre-hearing conference are expected to confirm that the trial or hearing can proceed in accordance with the precautions and restrictions set out below and to advise the presiding judge or master of any problems these measures may present. Any such problems should be addressed in advance of the trial or hearing. Counsel and self-represented parties will also need to address any additional concerns that may apply in the specific circumstances of their trial or hearing.

For civil or family trials, if counsel or self-represented parties are unprepared, the presiding judge or master may adjourn the trial and award costs against the unprepared party or litigant.

II. Addressing instances of symptomatic participants

Counsel and self represented parties must be in a position to confirm at the TMC, PTC, or other conference, at the opening of trial, and at the start of each day of the trial or at the start of any other in court appearance that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side (including counsel, the party, the accused or witnesses) has any symptoms of illness that maybe related to COVID-19. The BC Centre for Disease Control website advises that the symptoms of COVID-19 can include the following:

  1. fever
  2. chills
  3. cough
  4. shortness of breath
  5. sore throat and painful swallowing
  6. stuffy or runny nose
  7. loss of sense of smell
  8. headache
  9. muscle aches
  10. fatigue
  11. loss of appetite
  12. less commonly, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Counsel and self represented parties must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom.

Following the TMC or PTC, during and after the trial and during and after any other in court appearance, if counsel and self-represented parties become aware that anyone who has been present in court has experienced any symptoms related to COVID-19 or that anyone has come into close contact with a person with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 during the previous 14 days, they must notify the relevant public health officials and the local courthouse manager and follow any directions provided.

III. Witnesses

Prior to the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference, counsel or parties must determine if any potential witness is reluctant to attend court due to health-related concerns or for other reasons related to the public health emergency. The court is unlikely to require the witness to attend in such circumstances, and the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference will address the question of whether the witness can give evidence by other means, such as by affidavit or testimony by telephone or videoconferencing, etc.

IV. Masks and Protective Face Coverings

Members of the public and media are encouraged, but not required, to wear masks or protective face coverings when attending court hearings. Participants at a court appearance, including counsel, parties and witnesses, are permitted to wear a mask or protective face covering in the courtroom if they wish to do so, subject to direction from the judge, master, or registrar if removal of a mask is necessary in order for the participant’s evidence or submissions to be heard and understood. Participants should be aware that the judge, master, or registrar and the court clerk may or may not wear a mask in the courtroom. Any concerns on the part of counsel, parties or witnesses regarding the use of masks in the courtroom should be raised for discussion at the TMC, PTC or other pre-hearing conference or with the presiding judge or master or registrar at the earliest opportunity.

V. Oaths or Affirmations

If a witness wishes to give evidence under oath rather than by affirmation, they must bring a Bible or other religious book or sacred object to court. There will be no Bibles or other religious books available in the courtroom.

VI. In Custody Accused Persons

Crown and defence counsel should be familiar with the current policy of BC Corrections concerning the attendance of detained accused persons in court and be prepared to discuss the considerations raised by the policy at the PTC.

VII. Exhibits, Documents, and Authorities

Counsel and self-represented parties must make every effort to limit documentary evidence and case authorities to those that are truly necessary. The court has always discouraged the practice of filing binders of documents as exhibits that counsel may not refer to or that are not entered into evidence; that practice is particularly discouraged in the current circumstances. For briefs of authorities, counsel should include only those cases to which they need to, and will, refer.

Civil and family hearings and trials

Counsel and self-represented parties should deliver copies of documents that they intend to enter as exhibits or rely on in cross-examination to other counsel/parties in advance, rather than simply passing them out in the courtroom. The same applies to common books of documents, written submissions, and briefs of authorities.

Criminal trials and extradition hearings

Crown counsel should deliver copies of documents that they intend to enter as exhibits to defence counsel in advance of the trial or extradition hearing, rather than simply passing them out in the courtroom. Defence counsel are encouraged to do so as well, if this will not impair the conduct of the defence case.

Movement of documents and exhibits in the courtroom where unavoidable

Where the passing of copies of documents or physical exhibits to others in the courtroom is unavoidable, counsel and self-represented parties must use the hand sanitizer available in the courtroom to sanitize their hands before and after handling the documents. In addition to hand sanitizer, there will be a supply of gloves in the courtroom for anyone who wishes to use them, as well as instructions for the safe use, removal, and disposal of gloves. In order to maintain a safe physical distance between counsel, the court clerk, and the witness, documents and exhibits should be placed on the document table before the court clerk and the judge enter the courtroom. Where this is not possible or appropriate, at the time a document or exhibit is to be handed up, counsel or self-represented parties must place it on the document table and then return to counsel table at which point the court clerk will pick it up and hand it to the judge, master, registrars or witness.

VIII. Cleaning and Sanitation

The courtroom will be cleaned after each matter and at the end of each court day, including the witness box, accused box, counsel tables, court clerk desk, the judicial bench, public seating areas, and all other areas of the courtroom where people sit.

A courtroom attendant will wipe down the witness box, including the microphone, horizontal surfaces of the stand, armrests, and handrails after each witness finishes their testimony and at the end of each court day.

In order to facilitate the cleaning of counsel tables, the court requests that counsel who are appearing over multiple days on a particular matter remove their materials from the courtroom each night. If this is not possible or practical (e.g., because of the volume of materials), counsel should pack up their materials into boxes and store them underneath the counsel table.

For more information and details about cleaning protocols, please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s information about COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations.

IX. Courtroom Layout

The physical layout of the courtroom, including the position of counsel, the court clerk and the witness may be altered to maintain a safe physical distance between all participants. The ability to move within a particular courtroom, such as by approaching a witness, maybe restricted for physical distancing purposes.

Communication between counsel and parties

Counsel must consider how they intend to confer with co-counsel and their clients in the courtroom while maintaining a safe physical distance.

Civil and family trials

Counsel should give notice at the TMC of an intention to seek leave of the trial judge to communicate with co-counsel or their client by text message or another method that would not normally be acceptable in court.

Criminal trials and extradition hearings

At the commencement of the trial or extradition hearing, defence counsel should be prepared to discuss with the trial judge the means by which they and their accused clients will communicate and confer with each other inside and outside the courtroom. There may be additional considerations where the accused is in custody.

Water

There will be no water jugs available in the courtroom during the court hearing. Counsel, parties and witnesses are permitted in bring their own water in clear plastic bottles that are no larger than 1 litre in volume. Sheriffs will provide water for an in-custody accused person.

Public and media

In order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available will be reduced. If counsel or a party is aware of anyone who intends to observe all or part of the court hearing, they should advise those individuals that while the court remains open to the public, seating is limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted once the room capacity is reached.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated 5 June 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Notice No. 34
Date: revised August 7, 2020

Highlighted changes:

  • Part IV respecting suspension of limitation periods in provincial enactments and laws has been updated.
  • COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearings, which were established for civil and family matters that had been scheduled to be heard between March 19 and May 29, were not urgent or essential, and met certain other criteria (as per COVID-19 Notice No. 13), are no longer available. The Court will continue to hear other matters by telephone, including Judicial Case Conferences, Chambers applications, Trial Management Conferences, Case Planning Conferences, and Registrar’s hearings.
  • Information about civil jury selections and civil jury trials has been removed, as this is now dealt with in COVID-19 Notice No. 39.

Effective July 13, 2020, this notice replaces the following notices:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 1 – Changes to Courtroom Procedures for In-Person Court Appearances
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 8 – Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations, revised April 16, 2020
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 13 – Expansion of Civil and Family Matters – Telephone Conference Hearings
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 15 – Suspension of Regular Court Operations – Insolvency Matters
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 25 – Resumption of Further Court Operations

Effective July 13, 2020, this notices modifies the following notices:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 14 – Applications by Written Submission
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Resumption of Further Court Operations – Chambers Applications

Introduction

Effective March 19, 2020 and until further notice, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

The Court has gradually resumed some regular operations, including trials, chambers applications and other hearings and conferences, many of which proceed remotely. While the Court has expanded the scope of its in-person operations, counsel, parties, litigants and members of the public are discouraged from attending courthouses unless their personal attendance is necessary or the Court so directs. This will help minimize the overall number of people in courthouses.

Effective July 13, 2020, in-person registry services will resume at all Supreme Court registries in British Columbia (see Part I for details). In addition, the interim processes that the Court established for: (i) requesting a hearing of an urgent or essential matter, and (ii) scheduling a COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearing for matters that are not urgent or essential and meet certain other criteria will no longer be available (see Part II for details).

Information about in-person registry services and changes to the Court’s processes are set out below.

I. REGISTRY SERVICES

All Supreme Court registries will be open for in-person services on July 13, 2020. As of that date, parties may file materials at the registry.

While in-person filing is available, parties are strongly encouraged to use e-filing, or one of the other methods set out below:

  • E-filing using Court Services Online. Court Service Online will allow e-filing through the use of a Basic BCeID account. More information can be found here;
  • Fax Filing at a registry designated as a fax filing registry by Supreme Court Civil Rule 23-2 or Supreme Court Family Rule 22-3. See Appendix A for a list of fax filing registries and the fax numbers; and
  • Mailing to any Supreme Court registry. Contact information for all Supreme Court registries is available here.

Anyone attending at the courthouse must review the directions in COVID-19 Notice No. 27 – In Court Measures During the Pandemic prior to arrival.

I. REQUESTS FOR URGENT OR ESSENTIAL HEARINGS AND COVID-19 TELEPHONE CONFERENCE HEARINGS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE​

The Court established the Request for Urgent Hearing process for civil and family matters (COVID-19 Notice No. 8) and insolvency matters (COVID-19 Notice No. 15) to facilitate access to the Court while registries were not providing in-person services.

Effective July 13, 2020, the Request for Urgent Hearing process for civil, family and insolvency matters will no longer be available. Parties who have emergency applications should follow the processes set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Chambers Applications and the Supreme Court Civil Rules or the Supreme Court Family Rules, and:

The Court established the COVID-19 Telephone Conference Hearing process for civil and family matters that had been scheduled to be heard between March 19 and May 29, were not urgent or essential, and met certain other criteria (COVID-19 Notice No. 13). In light of the Court’s expanded operations, effective July 13, 2020, the Telephone Conference Hearing process for civil and family matters that was set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 13 will no longer be available.

The Court will continue to hear other matters by telephone, including Judicial Case Conferences, Chambers applications, Trial Management Conferences, Case Planning Conferences, and Registrar’s hearings.

II. OTHER COVID-19 PROCESSES ARE STILL AVAILABLE

During the suspension of the Court’s regular operations, the Court established interim processes to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to hear matters by telephone and written submissions. A list of the Court’s current processes and notices is available here.

Effective July 13, 2020, the following COVID-19 processes are modified as set out below:

A. COVID-19 Notice No. 14 - Applications by Written Submissions

For family law matters, parties are no longer automatically relieved of the requirement to attend a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) before making an application by written submissions. Instead, Rule 7-1(2) of the Supreme Court Family Rules applies, meaning a party must not make an application by written submissions until a JCC has been conducted. Exceptions to this rule and the process by which a party can apply to be relieved of this requirement are set out under Rules 7-1(3) to 7-1(6) of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

The court will continue to hear JCCs by telephone, unless the court otherwise directs. The process for setting a JCC is set out in Part IV of this notice.

B. COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Resumption of Further Court Operations - Chambers Applications

Timelines for Delivering Application Record to Registry

For chambers applications, applicants are no longer required to provide the application record to the registry no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is two full business days before the date set for hearing. Instead, the usual timeframes in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules apply, meaning applicants must submit the application record to the registry where the hearing is to take place no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is one full business day before the date set for hearing.

Timelines for Serving Application Record Index on Respondents

Applicants are no longer required to serve an application record index on each respondent no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is two full business days before the date set for hearing. Instead, the usual timeframes in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules apply, meaning applicants must serve a copy of the application record index on each respondent no later than 4 p.m. on the business day that is one full business day before the date set for hearing.

III. CIVIL AND FAMILY MATTERS

A. Trials

All civil and family trials scheduled to begin on or after June 8, 2020 have resumed unless the Court otherwise directs. The resumption of civil and family trials may be subject to change as a result of limitations on available facilities or public health recommendations.

B. Jury Selections and Jury Trials

All civil jury selections and jury trials are cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020, everywhere in the province.

For civil matters where a jury notice has been filed and served, if all parties consent to proceeding by judge alone, they may seek such an order at a Trial Management Conference (TMC) or a Judicial Management Conference (JMC). A party wishing to strike a jury notice may bring an application through the Application by Written Submissions process set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 14 or through a chambers application as set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 28. A party opposing an application to strike can apply for an adjournment of the trial. For more information, see COVID-19 Notice No. 26.

Effective July 13, 2020, the collection of jury fees will resume. However, as resumption of jury selections must precede resumption of jury trials, jury trials may be further delayed.

C. Chambers Hearings and Conferences

As of June 1, 2020, the following matters resumed by telephone:

  • JCCs for family matters;
  • Chambers matters already scheduled for hearing on the trial list; and
  • TMCs, as set out in COVID-19 Notice No. 26

JCCs that are already scheduled to occur on or after June 1, 2020 will resume by telephone. Parties may also schedule a JCC, which will occur by telephone, by contacting Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the file is located and filing and serving all required materials pursuant to Rule 7-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties may apply to have a JCC heard by remote video conferencing pursuant to COVID-19 Notice No. 35 – Remote Video Conferencing.

As of June 5, 2020, chambers applications estimated to take two hours or less resumed by telephone in accordance with COVID-19 Notice No. 28 – Chambers Applications.

As of June 30, 2020, registrar hearings resumed in accordance with COVID-19 Notice No. 32 – Registrar Hearings.

As the Court continues with its plan for expanding court operations, further information will be provided as it becomes available.

IV. LIMITATION PERIODS AND FILING DEADLINES

Filing and service timelines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules were suspended on March 18, 2020 and began to run again on May 29, 2020. With the exception of any document associated with a Request for Urgent Hearing, Telephone Conference Hearing, or Application by Written Submissions, documents filed between March 19, 2020 and May 28, 2020 are deemed to have been filed on May 29, 2020. A party unable to meet a filing deadline for reasons related to COVID-19 may apply for an order amending the timeline for filing.

The suspension of regular operations and adjournment of trials scheduled on or before May 29, 2020 necessarily suspended the usual timelines under the Supreme Court Civil and Family Rules for holding TMCs, for filing Trial Briefs, and for filing Trial Certificates, as these timelines all count back from the scheduled trial date. Trials scheduled for hearing following May 29, 2020 are also affected. See COVID-19 Notice No. 26 regarding the resumption of TMCs.

Provincial Suspension of Limitation Periods Remains in Place

Effective April 15, 2020, Ministerial Order No. M098 suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods for the commencement of a civil or family proceeding from March 18, 2020 to the date on which the last extension of the declaration of the state of emergency made under section 9 (1) of the Emergency Program Act expires or is cancelled, except for those limitations and time periods established under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act.

Effective March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for the commencement of a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal. See Ministerial Order No. M086 (Limitations Order No. 1).

Effective April 15, 2020, Ministerial Order No. MO86 was repealed and replaced by Ministerial Order No. MO98, which suspends limitation periods and mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for the commencement of a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal except those established under the Builders Lien Act and Division 5 of Part 5 of the Strata Property Act (Limitations Order No. 2).

On July 8, 2020, the Legislature passed the COVID-19 Related Measures Act, S.B.C. 2020, c. 8 (“Act”). The Act came into force on July 10, 2020. The Act continues the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or laws for commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal as set out in Limitations Order No. 1 and Limitations Order No. 2.

On August 4, 2020, the Lieutenant Governor made the COVID-19 (Limitation Periods in Court Proceedings) Regulation, B.C. Reg. 199/2020 (“Regulation”) and amended the Act. The Regulation and the Act provide that the suspension of mandatory limitation periods and any other mandatory time periods in British Columbia enactments or lawsfor commencing a civil or family action, proceeding, claim or appeal in the Supreme Court of British Columbia will end 90 days after the date the state of emergency expires or is cancelled.

Once this suspension is lifted, more directions will be provided by the Court.

V. IN-PERSON HEARINGS

The Supreme Court initially instituted the Centralized Registry model, scheduling hearings at only seven locations throughout the province, to contain the spread of COVID-19. The Court will no longer be using the Centralized Registry model. However, the Court is not yet able to return to full in-person hearing and trial capacity at all of its registries. In order to continue to protect the safety and health of the members of the public, limit the number of in-person appearances and trials, limit the transmission of the virus and maintain access to justice as an essential service for the public, many hearings such as chambers applications, TMCs, JCCs and some registrar hearings will continue to be heard by telephone conference or, where available, videoconference, unless the Court otherwise directs.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated August 7, 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Appendix A – Fax Filing Registries

Chilliwack (604) 795-8397

Cranbrook (250) 426-1498

Dawson Creek (250) 784-2218

Kamloops (250) 828-4345

Kelowna (250) 979-6768

Nelson (250) 354-6133

Penticton (250) 492-1290

Prince George (250) 614-7923

Rossland (250) 362-7321

Salmon Arm (250) 833-7401

Smithers (250) 847-7344

Terrace (250) 638-2143

Vernon (250) 549-5461

Williams Lake (250) 398-4264

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COVID-19 Notice No.40
Date: revised July 27, 2020

This notice replaces the following notice:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 26 – Civil and Family Matters – Resumption of Trial Management Conferences and Trials, dated June 3, 2020

Introduction

On March 19, 2020, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Effective May 13, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson directed that Trial Management Conferences (“TMCs”) would proceed by telephone, unless the Court otherwise ordered. The Chief Justice also ordered that certain requirements in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules regarding the timing of certain TMCs and the timeframes for filing and serving trial briefs (civil matters), trial records, and trial certificates were amended for TMCs and trials scheduled to begin on or before July 24, 2020.

Accordingly, effective July 27, 2020, the amendment of certain requirements in the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules regarding the timing of certain TMCs and the time frames for filing and serving trial briefs, trial records, and trial certificates no longer apply. Parties must schedule TMCs and file and serve trial briefs, trial records and trial certificates pursuant to the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules and Administrative Notice #13. The Court’s direction that TMCs proceed by telephone unless the Court otherwise orders continues to apply.

While the Court is taking all steps necessary to prepare to hear trials, the Court cannot guarantee that matters will proceed as scheduled. The Court’s ability to hear trials will continue to be subject to developments that may occur during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The process for scheduling TMCs and rebooking trials that have been adjourned due to the Court’s suspension of regular operations is set out below.

I. THE PURPOSE OF A TMC

Given the wide-ranging impacts of COVID-19, the Court recognizes that it is important in these times to hold TMCs to assess whether parties are ready or able to proceed to trial and how the trial may be conducted efficiently within the requirements of public health orders and guidelines. Properly completed trial briefs will assist the Court in making orders setting out a plan for how the trial should be conducted.

Counsel and self-represented parties at a TMC are expected to confirm that the trial or hearing can proceed in accordance with the precautions and restrictions set out in COVID-19 Notice In Court Measures During the Pandemic and to advise the presiding judge or master of any problems these measures may present. Any such problems should be addressed in advance of the trial or hearing. Counsel and self-represented parties will also need to address any additional concerns that may apply in the specific circumstances of their trial or hearing.

If counsel or self-represented parties are unprepared, the presiding judge or master may adjourn the trial and award costs against the unprepared party or litigant.

It is important to note, however, that holding a TMC does not guarantee that a civil or family trial will proceed on the scheduled date.

II. HOW TO SCHEDULE A TMC

All TMCs must be scheduled to be heard by telephone by following the steps below.

To schedule a TMC a party (“Scheduling Party”) must:

  • Make efforts to contact the opposing party to determine a mutually agreeable date for the TMC, and then book the TMC online. If the Scheduling Party is unable to book the TMC online, they should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial is to be held.
    • For a family matter, the date of the TMC must be scheduled to take place at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date in accordance with Rule 14-3(1) of the Supreme Court Family Rules.
    • For a civil matter, the date of the TMC must take place at least 28 days and not more than 120 days before the scheduled trial date pursuant to Rule 12-2(1) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules.
  • Once a TMC has been booked, the Scheduling Party must file and promptly serve on all other parties a requisition in Form F17 with the following information:
    • the date and time of the TMC;
    • the venue at which the TMC was booked but also state that theTMC will be heard by telephone; and
    • the phone numbers of all parties by which they may be contacted for the hearing of the TMC.
  • Trial briefs, trial records, and trial certificates must be filed and served in accordance with the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules and Administrative Notice #13.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their documents through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

III. HOW TO REBOOK A TRIAL

This part of the Notice applies to civil and family trials that were adjourned due to the Court’s suspension of regular operations, and that have not already been rebooked. In order to reschedule adjourned trial dates, partiesmust do one of the following: rebook trial dates following the steps in Part A below OR schedule a Judicial Management Conference (“JMC”) to be heard by telephone following the steps in Part B below.

A. Rebooking Trial Dates

Parties should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial was to be held to rebook the trial based on availability as follows:

  • Before rebooking trial dates, the party seeking to rebook (“Rebooking Party”) must make efforts to contact all other parties to determine mutually agreeable dates for the trial.
  • When the Rebooking Party calls to schedule the trial,they must advise Supreme Court Scheduling of their file number, that it is a “COVID displaced trial”, the registry location and whether a judge is seized of or assigned to the matter.
  • Once trial dates have been scheduled, the Rebooking Party must file and serve promptly on all other parties a notice of trial pursuant to Rule 12-1of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 14-2 of the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their notice of trial through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

B. Scheduling a JMC

To schedule a JMC to be heard by telephone the party seeking a JMC (“Scheduling Party”) must:

  • Make efforts to contact all other parties to determine a mutually agreeable date for the JMC, and then book the JMC online. If the Scheduling Party is unable to book the JMC online, they should contact Supreme Court Scheduling by phone at the registry where the trial was to be held.
  • Once a JMC has been scheduled, the Scheduling Party must file and promptly serve on all other parties a requisition in Form 17 for civil law matters and Form F17 for family law matters at least 7 days before the JMC.The requisition:
    • must note the fact that a JMC has been scheduled, the date and time of the JMC, the venue at which the JMC was booked, that the JMC will be heard by telephone, and the phone numbers for all parties by which they may be contacted for the hearing of the JMC; and
    • may list the documents to support the requisition, such as previously filed trial briefs, trial records and trial certificates, if applicable.

One of the purposes of a JMC is to foster a candid discussion about the management of the case during COVID-19 and options on how to move the matter forward. Examples of what may be discussed include: rebooking trial dates, issues of urgency, narrowing of issues, and alternative dispute resolution options.

Registry contact information can be found online here.

Parties are encouraged to e-file their requisition through Court Services Online. See COVID-19 Notice Expansion of Court Operations – In-Person Registry Services for more information on methods of filing.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated July 27, 2020 at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Notice #14
Date: April 27, 2020
Revised: July 20, 2020

On March 19, 2020 the Supreme Court of British Columbia suspended regular operations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. All civil and family matters scheduled for hearing between March 19, 2020 and May 29, 2020 (the “Suspension Period”) were adjourned, unless the Court otherwise directed. The Court established processes to hear urgent or essential matters, to hold telephone conference hearings for certain matters, and continued to process some desk order applications.

Effective April 22, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General authorized the Chief Justice and the Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to dispense with some procedural steps under the Supreme Court Civil Rules and the Supreme Court Family Rules related to applications, where the procedural steps cannot reasonably be taken because of the COVID-19 pandemic or would be inconsistent with public health advisories. See Ministerial Order No. M121.

To facilitate the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of proceedings during the Suspension Period, Chief Justice Hinkson has directed that parties may bring the applications described in Part I of this notice by written submissions following the process set out in Part II of this notice.

Accordingly, effective April 27, 2020, until the conclusion of the state of emergency ordered by the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Chief Justice ordered that the following requirements does not apply to applications that meet the criteria set out in Part I of this notice:

  • The requirement in Rule 8-6 of the Supreme Court Civil Rules that an order must be made at a case planning conference before parties can make an application by written submissions.; and
  • The requirement in Rule 7-1(2) of the Supreme Court Family Rules that a judicial case conference must be held before a party can serve another party a notice of application or affidavit in support.​

Effective July 13, 2020, the Chief Justice further ordered that the requirement in Rule 7- 1(2) of the Supreme Court Family Rules that a judicial case conference must be held before a party can serve another party a notice of application or affidavit in support is no longer waived. Exceptions to this rule and the process by which a party can apply to be relieved of this requirement are set out under Rules 7-1(3) to 7-1(6) of the Supreme Court Family Rules. A copy of the order of the Chief Justice is available here.

I. APPLICATIONS THAT CAN BE MADE BY WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS

A party may bring an application by way of written submissions in lieu of a hearing if:

  • The matter is limited to one disputed issue; and
  • The issue can be addressed on the basis of one affidavit filed per party, no more than 10 pages in length, inclusive of exhibits.

If the matter involves more than one disputed issue, a party may bring an application by way of written submissions in lieu of a hearing if:

  • The parties have reached consent on all but one issue, or the party bringing the application has identified all of the disputed issues and chosen one issue to proceed by written submissions; and
  • The issue can be addressed on the basis of one affidavit filed per party, no more than 10 pages in length, inclusive of exhibits.

If the application relates to a family law issue that requires filing a financial statement in Form 8 pursuant to Rule 5-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules, each party may also rely on either a previously filed financial statement (if it contains current, accurate and complete information) or a new financial statement filed as part of the application, but not both.

The Court retains its discretion to decide if the issue is appropriate for determination on the basis of written submissions.

A party may only bring one application by written submissions per file at a time.

II. PROCESS FOR MAKING AN APPLICATION BY WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS

The Court has established the following procedures to allow a party to bring an application by written submissions.

  • Before making an application by written submissions, parties are encouraged to discuss ways of narrowing the issue so that it is suitable for determination by written submissions.
  • If no judge or master is seized of or assigned to the matter, the Applicant must book a date for a judge or master to consider the application by written submissions (a “Hearing Date”) using the CV Application for Written Submissions online form available here. Parties are reminded to book only one Hearing Date at a time.
  • If a judge or master is seized of or assigned to the matter, the Applicant must submit a Request to Appear Before a Specific Judge/Master located here to request that the application for written submissions is considered by that specific presider. The Applicant should note “Application by Written Submissions” in the field marked “Type of Hearing”.

A. Filing and Service of Materials

  • The Applicant must file a notice of application in Form 32 for a civil matter or in Form F31 for a family matter, not exceeding 10 pages, with the modifications below:
    • Rather than setting out the place of the hearing and providing a time estimate, the Applicant must set out the Hearing Date (as booked online) and note that the application is being made by written submissions in lieu of an oral or telephone hearing;
    • If the matter was previously set down for a hearing, the Applicant must note the date on which the matter was originally scheduled to be heard and provide a brief description of the matter (i.e., trial, conference, chambers application, other hearing);
    • The Applicant must note whether a judge or master has been assigned to or is seized of the proceedings;
    • In Part 1 (Order(s) Sought), using numbered paragraphs, the Applicant must list any other issue(s) still in dispute, and indicate if any issue will be proceeding by consent; and
    • In Part 4 (Material to be Relied on), using numbered paragraphs, the Applicant must list the single affidavit served with the notice of application, the financial statement if applicable for a family law matter, and any other pleadings already in the court file on which the Applicant will rely. Parties may not rely on previously filed affidavits (except, if applicable, in a family law matter where the party wants to rely on a previously filed financial statement).
  • The Applicant must file one sworn affidavit, not exceeding 10 pages, inclusive of exhibits, setting out the key facts of the issue.
  • If applicable in a family law matter, the Applicant must file one sworn financial statement in Form F8 (unless relying on a previously filed financial statement that is current, accurate and complete).
  • The Applicant must serve copies of the filed notice of application, this Notice, filed affidavit, filed financial statement (if any) and written submissions not exceeding 20 pages on the Respondent.
  • If the Respondent wishes to respond to the Applicant’s notice of application, notwithstanding the usual timeframes for responding to a notice of application in Rule 8-1(9) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Rule 10-6(8.1) of the Supreme Court Family Rules, the Respondent must do the following within 10 business days after service:
    • File one sworn affidavit (if any), not exceeding 10 pages, inclusive of exhibits, in response to the Applicant’s affidavit;
    • If applicable in a family law matter, file one sworn financial statement in Form F8 (unless relying on a previously filed financial statement that is current, accurate and complete);
    • File an application response in Form 33 for a civil matter and Form F32 for a family matter. In Part I, 2 or 3, the Respondent must indicate whether the Respondent consents to the application proceeding on the basis of written submissions. In Part 6 (Material to be Relied on), using numbered paragraphs, the Respondent must list the single affidavit, the financial statement if applicable; and any other pleadings already in the court file on which the Respondent will rely. Parties may not rely on previously filed affidavits (except, if applicable, in a family law matter where the party wants to rely on a previously filed financial statement); and
    • Serve copies of the filed application response, filed affidavit, filed financial statement (if any) and written submissions not exceeding 20 pages on the Applicant.
  • For methods of filing see Part I of COVID-19 Notice No. 34. Part VII of the Court’s April 16, 2020 Notice. Parties are strongly encouraged to e-file if possible.
  • Within 4 business days after being served with the Respondent’s materials, the Applicant may serve written submissions in reply not exceeding 5 pages on the Respondent. The Applicant may not file any responding affidavits.
  • The parties may agree to abridge the timelines set out above.
  • In order to provide proof of service to the Court, parties must follow the directions in COVID-19 Notice No. 24 and file their affidavits of service or delivery through Court Services Online.

B. Written Submissions Brief

  • The Applicant must submit the Written Submissions Brief to Supreme Court Scheduling at the appropriate email address (as set out in Appendix A of this Notice) not later than 4:00 p.m. on the business day that is one full business day before the Hearing Date. All parties must be copied on this email.
  • The Written Submissions Brief must include:
    • A copy of the filed notice of application; o A copy of the filed application response;
    • A copy of the Applicant’s filed affidavit and written submissions;
    • A copy of the Respondent’s filed affidavit and written submissions in response, if any;
    • A copy of the Applicant’s financial statement, if applicable in a family law matter;
    • A copy of the Respondent’s financial statement, if applicable in a family law matter;
    • The Applicant’s written submissions in reply, if any; and
    • Any pleadings relied on by the parties.
  • The Written Submissions Brief must not include copies of authorities, including case law, legislation, legal articles or excerpts from text books. Instead, written submissions must refer to authorities by case name, and must include the citation, pinpoint reference and hyperlinks to an open source, such as CanLII or Lexum. Written submissions should not include lengthy quotations from cases.

C. Judge or Master Considers the Application by Written Submissions

  • Supreme Court Scheduling will acknowledge receipt of the Written Submissions Brief via email to all parties, and confirm which judge or master will consider the application.
  • A judge or master will review the Written Submissions Brief and make a decision on the merits of the issue. If the issue is not appropriate for determination on the basis of written submissions or if the materials in the Written Submissions Brief are insufficient, the judge or master may provide further direction to the parties (e.g., with respect to filing additional materials or setting a date for the parties to speak to the matter by telephone).

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated July 20, 2020 at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Appendix A

KAMLOOPS - sc.scheduling_ka@BCCourts.ca

  • Cranbrook, Golden, Nelson, Revelstoke, Rossland, Salmon Arm

KELOWNA - sc.scheduling_ok@BCCourts.ca

  • Penticton, Vernon

NANAIMO - sc.scheduling_na@BCCourts.ca

  • Campbell River, Courtenay, Port Alberni, Powell River

NEW WEST - sc.scheduling_nw@BCCourts.ca

  • Chilliwack

PRINCE GEORGE - sc.scheduling_pg@BCCourts.ca

  • • Dawson Creek, Fort St. John, Quesnel, Williams Lake

VANCOUVER - sc.family_va@BCCourts.ca OR sc.civil_va@BCCourts.ca

VICTORIA - sc.scheduling_vi@BCCourts.ca

  • Duncan, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Terrace
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COVID-19 Notice No. 38
Date: July 17, 2020

Effective March 19, 2020, Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Essential and urgent matters continued to be heard, mostly by telephone or video appearance. Hearings of additional matters resumed as the circumstances permitted, with the gradual lifting of some public health restrictions and the implementation of health and safety measures in court facilities. Jury selections (and therefore most jury trials) remained cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020.

The Court will resume criminal jury selections and trials on September 8, 2020. The Court, the BC Sheriff Services, and the Minister of Attorney General’s Court Services Branch, working together, have developed a plan for managing the particular challenges posed by jury selections and trials that reflects public health guidelines and the requirements of the law.

Counsel and parties with criminal jury trials scheduled for jury selection and trial on or after September 8, 2020 should expect the trial to proceed as scheduled, except as set out below.

THE LOCATION OF THE TRIAL

The Attorney General’s Court Services Branch has assessed court facilities throughout the province to ensure they meet the health and safety requirements established by public health authorities. Health and safety protocols have been created and courtrooms are being modified where necessary. For the 23 courthouses in which the Court has criminal jury courtrooms, particular attention has been given to whether physical distancing can be maintained between jurors (as well as for others present in the courtroom, such as participants in the trial process, and observers in the public gallery) during the jury selection process, the trial itself, and the jury’s deliberation process at the end of the trial.

Where possible, jury courtrooms will be reconfigured or modified to increase the distance between jurors (and from other individuals) in courtrooms. Where physical distancing cannot be maintained, plexiglass barriers will be installed or other appropriate measures taken. Where courtroom facilities can be made suitable, the trial will take place in the courthouse where it is scheduled to take place.

Jurors may be asked to wear face shields and/or masks to provide additional protection to themselves and others. Individuals with concerns about doing so will be invited, at the jury selection process, to ask to be excused from serving.

Some courthouses (mainly very small courthouses) cannot accommodate jury trials in conformity with public health guidelines and cannot be suitably modified. Criminal jury trials scheduled in those locations may be held offsite in places such as community centres or hotels, or may be moved to another court location within the same judicial district. If such a move raises concerns for the accused person, counsel, witnesses, or other participants, the Court will consider whether, on balance, the trial should proceed in the new location or be adjourned until circumstances change sufficiently to allow it to proceed safely in the original location.

If the only suitable alternative location is outside the judicial district in which the trial is scheduled to take place, a change of venue application may be necessary.

Decisions about the location of the trial must also take account of local community interest. If it is necessary to move a trial to a distant court location, efforts will be made to provide a video link from the trial proceedings to suitable facilities in the original location of the trial.

THE JURY SELECTION PROCESS

Subject to the discretion of the presiding judge, the jury selection will generally proceed in two stages, on two separate dates, in order to limit the number of people attending at the same time.

The jury panel will consist of those jurors who have received juror summonses and who have responded to confirm that they will attend (e.g. who have not indicated in their response that they are disqualified from serving, or who have not been excused in advance for a compelling reason).

Stage 1: Drawing the Cards

Stage 1 of the jury selection process will take place in court with counsel and the accused person present, approximately two days before stage 2. In order to reduce the number of people present, the jury panel will not attend stage 1.

At stage 1, the court clerk will draw, one by one in a random selection, cards with the juror numbers of all of the members of the jury panel, and the numbers will be recorded in the sequence that they are drawn.

The jury selection will then be adjourned to the selection date (stage 2).

Stage 2: Individual Jury Panelists are Challenged, Excused, Stood By, or Sworn/Affirmed as Jurors

Following stage 1 and before stage 2, the members of the jury panel will be assigned to groups of approximately 15 according to the order in which their numbers were drawn at stage 1. Members of the jury panel will be advised of the time at which their group is to attend for the stage 2 court appearance. Attendance times for groups of jury panelists will be staggered throughout the day, and will maintain the numerical sequence resulting from the stage 1 random selection.

The stage 2 process will generally take place on a Saturday so that as few people as possible are present in the place of the jury selection, except those involved in or affected by it.

At stage 2, counsel and the accused person will be present. The members of the jury panel will attend in groups at their staggered times. The judge, who will be the same judge as presided at the stage 1 random selection, will make opening remarks to the first group of jurors. Then members of the first group will be re-called in the order resulting from the stage 1 random selection, and will be challenged, excused, stood by, or sworn or affirmed as jurors. The process (including the judge’s opening remarks) will repeat with the second group, and so forth, until the jury and any alternate jurors are selected.

Unless otherwise directed, jurors who are sworn or affirmed will be permitted to leave the courthouse (or other jury selection location), after receiving appropriate instructions from the judge, while the jury selection continues. This is to reduce the number of people in the courtroom, and because the selection may be lengthier than usual.

Depending on the available court facilities and whether they allow for physical distancing, the stage 2 process may take place in a courthouse, an offsite location (such as a community centre or hotel), or a combination of courthouse and offsite facilities. In many locations, it will be necessary for the members of a juror group to wait in a separate room from where the proceedings are taking place until they are re-called. If so, a two-way video link will be set up between the judge, court clerk, counsel, and the accused person, on one hand, and the waiting juror group, on the other to allow the judge’s opening remarks to be conveyed to the juror group and to allow counsel to see the jurors next to be called forward.

All jury selection locations will have been assessed in advance to ensure adherence to public health guidelines. Although measures will be in place for physical distancing, members of the panel will also be encouraged to bring and use a mask, or to make use of masks provided by the sheriffs. Hand sanitizer will be available, as will hand washing facilities.

The process outlined above differs in some ways from the usual jury selection process in British Columbia. It has been adapted in response to the public health guidelines regarding gatherings and physical distancing, while also preserving the essential aspects of a criminal jury selection, in order to allow criminal jury trials to proceed. The process will involve more steps than the usual jury selection process, will take longer overall, and will demand more of the Court, its sheriffs and staff, and counsel and the accused person. However, the important rights and interests at play, enjoyed respectively by the accused person and the public, require best efforts on the part of all participants in the current exceptional circumstances.

Scheduled Jury Selection Dates Will Be Revised

The date originally scheduled for jury selection will need to be revised to accommodate the two-stage jury selection process. Also, it will not be possible to conduct two or more jury selections on the same date in one location, and some adjustments may be required for that reason. Counsel should contact Supreme Court Scheduling for the court location of the trial approximately two months in advance, if revised jury selection dates have not been confirmed.

RAISING CONCERNS EARLY

The Court recognizes the fundamental importance of jury trials to the criminal justice system in British Columbia and is committed to resuming criminal jury proceedings in a safe way as soon as possible. During the pandemic, and while public health measures remain in place, each jury trial proceeding will require extensive advance planning and additional work for all involved, including the Court, staff, sheriffs and counsel. Therefore, it must be stressed that if counsel or a self-represented accused person is aware of any reason why their jury trial may not be able to proceed as scheduled, this must be raised for discussion with the Court at the earliest opportunity. Please contact the Supreme Court Scheduling Manager responsible for the court location of the trial, and a pre-trial conference by telephone will be arranged if necessary.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated 17 July 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Associate Chief Justice Heather J. Holmes
Supreme Court of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Notice No. 36
Date: July 10, 2020

On March 19, 2020 the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. The Court has gradually resumed some regular operations, including trials, chambers applications and other hearings and conferences, many of which proceed remotely.

Effective July 13, 2020, parties may book Case Planning Conferences (CPCs) in accordance with the process set out in the Supreme Court Civil Rules, as modified in this notice. Until further notice, all CPCs, including the first CPC held in an action, will proceed by telephone unless the court otherwise orders. See the Court’s order dated July 10, 2020 found here.

At any time after the pleading period has expired, a party of record to an action may request a CPC by obtaining a date and time from Supreme Court Scheduling at the registry where the file is located. Available dates are posted online here.

A party of record must file a notice of case planning conference in Form 19 with the modifications below. Form 19 must:

  • identify that the CPC is being heard by telephone; and
  • include email addresses and telephone numbers for all parties, which the registry may use to contact the parties to confirm telephone conferencing information.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated July 10, 2020 at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

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COVID-19 Notice No. 35
Date: July 7, 2020

I. INTRODUCTION

In order to increase the number of matters that can be heard during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of British Columbia will begin Remote Video Conference (“RVC”) hearings, using Microsoft Teams (“Teams”) in most cases. RVC hearings are defined as those in which all participants – parties, counsel, presider, and court clerk – attend by video conference. This Notice provides information for anyone who will appear by RVC from July 7, 2020 until further notice. During this initial period, the Court’s capacity to provide RVC hearings is subject to availability of equipment and trained staff, including court clerks. At this time, no part of a trial may be heard by RVC, except in special circumstances by order of the trial judge or case management judge.

The Canadian Bar Association has produced a useful guide to Using Teams in Courtroom Online Court Proceedings (“Teams guide”), which is attached to this notice. It contains detailed information about how to prepare for and participate in a video hearing. Parties and counsel should carefully review the Teams guide together with this Notice in advance of their hearing.

Parties and counsel must supply their own equipment and be prepared to set up and use Teams on their own, following the instructions in this Notice and the Teams guide. The Court cannot set up or troubleshoot the use of Teams on computers belonging to parties or counsel.

Despite the Court’s approval of a hearing by RVC, it remains within the discretion of each individual presider to discontinue a hearing by RVC and to make arrangements to continue proceedings by other means, if at any time the presider determines that it is not appropriate for the hearing to continue by RVC.

II. MATTERS THAT MAY BE HEARD BY RVC

A matter may proceed by RVC if either:

  1. The Court orders or directs on an application or its own motion that a matter will be heard by RVC; or
  2. The parties meet the criteria set out below and submit a request using the online form (see Part III below). The Court will review the request to determine if the RVC hearing is appropriate and notify the parties of the decision.

Criteria for RVC Hearings

All parties to a hearing must consent to appearing by RVC. It is not possible to have some parties appear in person or by telephone only without video. However, clients, members of the public, and media can listen in to an RVC hearing using audio only. See Parts V and VII below.

The following types of proceedings may proceed by RVC on request without a prior judicial order, provided sufficient equipment is available and the appropriate arrangements may be made:

  • Chambers matters that are scheduled on the trial list (those longer than two hours and continuations)
  • Judicial Case Conferences, if the only other option is appearing by telephone

For any other proceedings not listed above, parties must apply for a judicial order that a matter may proceed by RVC.

Unless otherwise ordered by the Court, RVC hearings cannot be used for any proceedings that:

  • Require language interpretation, or
  • Involve witness testimony

Parties must be able to meet the minimum technical standards set out below.

Parties must be prepared to submit their documents in advance of the hearing as set out below.

Teams will be the presumptive platform for all RVC hearings, unless the Court orders otherwise.

Requests to appear by Teams must be submitted a minimum of 14 clear days in advance of the hearing in order to make the necessary arrangements. Parties should expect the RVC Coordinator to be in touch within two business days of a request being submitted.

Minimum technical standards

In order to participate in an RVC hearing, the parties must meet the following minimum technical standards without assistance from the Court:

Equipment: All participants must have a working laptop or desktop computer that can run Teams with an operational camera (either an internal camera or an external mounted camera) and a microphone or headset. For an optimal experience, use of a smartphone, iPad, or similar handheld device is not recommended.

Knowledge of Teams: Participants must have working knowledge of Teams or must have undergone training on their own prior to the RVC hearing. The Court is not able to provide training in Teams.

It is recommended that participants install Teams on their computers well in advance of the RVC hearing, although it is possible also to join using a web browser such as Google Chrome. Participants should ensure that they are familiar with all the functions of Teams, as set out in the Teams guide to this notice and available here.

Please note that it is not anticipated participants will use the screen sharing function in Teams for most hearings at the Supreme Court.

Internet speed: All participants must test their internet connection to guarantee that they have sufficient bandwidth, with a minimum internet speed of 20 MBPS down and 10 MBPS up. Participants should perform a self-test of their internet speed at http://fast.com or http://speedtest.net before requesting the RVC hearing.

For an optimal experience, it is recommended that participants join the RVC hearing using a dedicated wired internet connection, meaning that their Ethernet cable should be directly connected to their computer. Wireless internet (“wifi”) does not always provide a stable connection and can lead to issues with audio and video continuity. Wifi may be used if upload and download speeds can be consistently achieved. If wifi is used, the connection should be private and secure (password protected), and the computer should be in close proximity to the router to provide the best signal.

Participants should be aware that they may need higher internet speeds if they intend to use other online programs at the same time as Teams (for example, if they are opening documents from a remote site).

Audio: While it is preferable for participants to join using the computer audio option in Teams, participants may join using the phone audio option in Teams if the party can still also appear on screen by video. Participants should only resort to dialing in by phone without video if their Teams connection fails during the hearing. If a participant is unable to connect by video or loses the video connection, the presider will direct whether the hearing may continue by telephone.

Technical support: Participants must have their own technical support to troubleshoot any problems with audio or video that arise during the hearing.

Self-test: Parties should coordinate between themselves to hold a self-test prior to the day of hearing and reconfirm that their internet speeds and platforms are sufficient on the day of the hearing.

III. HOW TO BOOK THE RVC HEARING

Whether the Court directs that the hearing proceed by RVC or the parties request the RVC hearing, the process the parties must follow is similar. One party must fill out the online request form on behalf of all parties to the hearing. The requesting party must provide an email address for each party or counsel who will attend the hearing, as the link to connect to the RVC hearing will be sent to participants by email. As noted above, the request form must be submitted a minimum of 14 clear days before the hearing. If the RVC hearing is approved, all parties will receive an email from the RVC Coordinator including the date and time, a link to join the RVC hearing using Teams, and further information.

IV. DOCUMENTS

Documents must be filed using existing processes as set out in the Supreme Court Civil, Family, and Criminal Rules, practice directions, and applicable notices issued by the Court in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless parties had previously established other document management processes or the Court directs otherwise, parties must deliver hard copies of any documents for use during the hearing to the registry at which the matter will be heard. Documents may not be shared in Teams during the hearing. The Supreme Court is currently developing additional processes for document submission, and further information will be provided once they become available.

V. INVITATION TO THE HEARING

All participants who are scheduled to attend an RVC hearing will receive an invitation by email from the RVC Coordinator with a link to the RVC hearing in Teams. In hearings over multiple days, the same link will be used for the entire duration of the RVC hearing.

VI. PARTICIPATING IN THE HEARING

The Court recognizes that there is a difference between attending by RVC and appearing in a courtroom. Some aspects of court decorum are not practical in a virtual situation. The Court also recognizes that those participating may be sharing their workspaces with family members, pets, or others, and that there may occasionally be interruptions that are beyond their control.

Most court formalities will continue to be respected.

  • Parties must provide realistic time estimates and adhere strictly to them.
  • Participants are expected to dress in business attire, unless they are directed otherwise by the Court.
  • Participants must do their best to minimize disturbances, including with respect to noise.
  • Participants may sit throughout the hearing and are not required to stand while addressing the Court. They are also not required to stand or bow when the presider enters or leaves the hearing.
  • Participants may not eat and may not drink anything except water while the hearing is ongoing.
  • Participants should avoid moving away from the screen/camera or should seek the permission of the judge to do so.

Parties and counsel are encouraged to prepare materials that they intend to use or rely on in advance, either by printing them or displaying them on a separate screen from the one that will be used for the RVC hearing. The day of the hearing Parties should follow these directions on the day of the hearing:

  • Please check in at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled hearing.
  • When prompted, enter your first and last name as your screen name in Teams.
  • Conduct a pre-test to ensure that your microphone, speakers, and video are working.
  • After the pre-test, wait until the court clerk calls your matter. The court clerk will moderate the RVC hearing. You will be prompted to join the meeting, and you will wait until the presider enters the hearing, at which point the court clerk will call the matter and you will be asked to identify yourself verbally. The RVC hearing will then proceed much as a regular court hearing.
  • If your audio fails or you have another technical issue during the hearing, you should let the court clerk know using the message function in Teams, then try to resolve the issue. If the problem persists, you should be prepared to dial in by telephone using the numbers provided by the RVC Coordinator in the invitation email you received.

During the hearing – standing down at breaks

Participants should remain connected to the hearing during breaks but should mute their audio and turn off video. At the scheduled end of breaks, participants should turn both audio and video back on, then wait for the court clerk to recall the matter.

Etiquette and decorum

Counsel or parties are expected to introduce themselves for the record as they would during any ordinary court hearing.

Counsel or parties are requested to speak slowly and clearly and to pause regularly to allow for the presider to ask questions.

If counsel or a self-represented party wishes to object, they should signal the presider by turning on their microphone and raising their hand. This should activate their Teams window, but if this does not happen, the participant should be prepared to speak to get the presider’s attention.

Counsel appearing should use customary forms of address for court:

  • My Lord/Lady or Madam/Mr. Justice ______ to address judges;
  • Your Honour or Master/Registrar ______ to address masters and registrars; and
  • Madam/Mr. Registrar to address court clerks.

Recording is not permitted

No recording of hearings is permitted, except by accredited media for the purpose of verifying notes, in accordance with the Court’s Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms.

Parties or counsel participating may be required to provide an undertaking not to record any portion of the RVC hearing in any electronic form, or presiders may read an order into the record prohibiting any recording of proceedings.

Visual appearance

As much as possible, parties should choose a location that will not be accessible to others during the RVC hearing, with adequate lighting, including on faces, and a background appropriate for a court proceeding that is plain and not distracting.

Participants are encouraged to look into the camera when speaking in order to make “eye contact” with the presider.

Sound

All parties must be on separate computers situated in separate rooms, in order to avoid feedback or other audio problems. Counsel representing one party may share a computer. The presider and court clerk will also attend from separate rooms.

As much as possible, participants are encouraged to choose a quiet location with minimum background noise. Participants must mute their microphones whenever they are not speaking. (See the attached Teams guidelines for instructions on how to mute your microphone.)

Participants should consider using headphones or earphones for optimal audio quality.

Participants are encouraged to identify the location of their computer microphones and to be mindful of the sounds that could be picked up. Most built-in computer microphones are located next to the keyboard. Participants are discouraged from typing during the hearing or placing papers directly on top of or close to the microphone as the sound can disrupt the audio transmission.

VII. ATTENDANCE BY MEDIA AND THE PUBLIC

Media wishing to attend any RVC hearing should contact the BC Superior Courts Communications Officer, the Honourable Bruce Cohen, by email at SCJCommunicationsOfficer@BCCourts.ca. Arrangements will be made for media to connect to the proceeding by Teams or teleconference. Media observing a proceeding by Teams must mute their audio and keep their cameras turned off. Members of the public may also contact the Communications Officer to obtain information about how to attend RVC hearings by teleconference.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated July 7, 2020 at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Chief Justice Christopher E. Hinkson
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Download Using MS Teams in Online Court Proceedings - Desktop and Telephone.

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COVID-19 Notice No. 33
Date: July 7, 2020

This notice replaces the following notices and announcements:

  • COVID-19 Notice No. 18: Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations – Criminal Proceedings dated May 11, 2020;
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 7: Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations – Criminal Proceedings dated April 16, 2020;
  • COVID-19 Notice No. 5: Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations – Criminal Proceedings dated March 30, 2020;
  • Announcement – Changes to Supreme Court Registry Operations dated March 25, 2020;
  • Further Directions dated March 20, 2020;
  • Notice of Suspension of Regular Court Operations dated March 18, 2020; and,
  • Supreme Court of British Columbia Modified Proceedings dated March 13, 2020.

Effective March 19, 2020, the Honourable Chief Justice Hinkson suspended regular operations of the Supreme Court of British Columbia at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. During the suspension, the Court continued to hear essential and urgent matters, and implemented new temporary processes for scheduling hearings and filing materials for those matters. The Court has also used remote means for hearings wherever possible and appropriate.

The Attorney General’s Court Services Branch has confirmed that in-person registry services will resume on July 13, 2020 (see Part I of this notice for details). For this and other reasons, effective July 13, 2020, many of the temporary processes will be discontinued as no longer necessary and the regular processes will resume (see Part II of this notice for details).

The Court has expanded the scope of its in-court operations. However, attendance at courthouses is discouraged except where necessary for registry business or for a hearing that is scheduled to occur in person in a courtroom. This will help minimize the overall number of people in courthouses.

I. REGISTRY SERVICES

The Attorney General’s Court Services Branch has confirmed that all Supreme Court registries will be open for in-person services on July 13, 2020. As of that date, materials may be filed at the registry. All registries will continue to receive documents for criminal matters by mail or fax. Counsel or self-represented accused persons may also contact the relevant criminal registry to inquire whether it is possible to file documents by email. Contact information for all Supreme Court registries is available here.

Anyone with a general inquiry (e.g. public health measures, courthouse hours, parking) or an inquiry related to registry services, including the filing of materials, is asked to contact the Supreme Court registry by telephone, and not to contact Scheduling.

II. CRIMINAL MATTERS

During the suspension of regular court operations, the Court established a temporary process to manage requests for hearings of essential or urgent criminal matters while registries were not providing in-person services. Effective July 13, 2020, the request for urgent hearing process will be discontinued and the regular processes will resume except as noted below.

Judicial interim release (bail) and bail review hearings are proceeding by telephone with accused persons in custody appearing by video. Hearings may be scheduled by contacting Supreme Court Scheduling directly.

Detention review hearings under s. 525 of the Criminal Code continue to be scheduled in accordance with CPD-4. Appearances are by telephone, with accused persons in custody appearing by video.

Regular fix-date appearances are proceeding on the usual day and time for each court location. Appearances are by telephone, with self-represented accused persons in custody appearing by video.

Section 490 applications are proceeding in accordance with the process described in COVID-19 Notice No 30.

Regular pre-trial conferences (PTCs), COVID pre-trial conferences (CV PTCs), and Case Management Conferences (CMCs) are proceeding by telephone. If the accused person is self-represented and in custody, Crown counsel should arrange for them to appear at the PTC, CV PTC, or CMC by video. For information regarding CV PTCs for cases that have been adjourned or are at risk of being adjourned due to the public health emergency, please see COVID-19 Notice No. 29.

Criminal trials, voir dires and pre-trial applications, and extradition hearings resumed (where appropriate) on June 8, 2020. Appearances are in person in the courtroom unless the Court directs otherwise. The Court’s capacity to hear these types of matters remains limited by the public health measures resulting from the ongoing pandemic. However, capacity is gradually increasing as modifications are made to courthouse and courtroom facilities, and in-court technology is improved.

Summary conviction and traffic ticket appeals are proceeding by telephone wherever possible and appropriate. Counsel may schedule an appeal matter for a telephone hearing by contacting Supreme Court Scheduling. If copies of any exhibits are required from the Provincial Court proceedings, counsel must contact the registry at least five business days before the hearing to ensure that copies of the exhibits can be sent to the relevant court location for the hearing.

For any other criminal matters not mentioned above, counsel or accused persons not represented by counsel may contact Supreme Court Scheduling directly to arrange for a hearing. Attendance at hearings will be by telephone where possible and appropriate, or by video where appropriate and available.

Jury selections are cancelled up to and including September 7, 2020, everywhere in the province.

III. MODE OF ATTENDANCE FOR HEARINGS IN CRIMINAL MATTERS

In order to reduce the total number of people in courthouses at the same time, most non-trial appearances will take place by telephone or video (where appropriate and available), unless otherwise directed by the Court. In-person trials and hearings will be scheduled in courthouses and courtrooms that have been brought into conformity with public health directives, and that can be appropriately staffed.

Anyone attending a hearing in person at a courthouse must review the directions in COVID Notice No. 27 – In Court Measures During the Pandemic prior to arrival at the courthouse. For information regarding health and safety protocols at courthouses across the province, please consult the Ministry of Attorney General’s information about COVID-19 Court Recovery Operations.

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE. ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

Dated 7 July 2020, at Vancouver, British Columbia

By Direction of Associate Chief Justice Heather J. Holmes
Supreme Court of British Columbia

Provincial Court of BC
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Effective date: 28 September 2020
CRIM 12

PRACTICE DIRECTION

CRIMINAL PRE-TRIAL CONFERENCES DURING COVID-19

Background

In R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, the Supreme Court of Canada told all participants in the criminal justice system they have “a role to play in changing courtroom culture and facilitating a more efficient criminal justice system” (at para. 45). Participants were directed to engage in “proactive, preventative problem solving” (supra, at para. 112) and encouraged to “eliminate or avoid inefficient practices” (supra, at para. 117).

Since these directions in Jordan, over three quarters of all criminal files set for trial in Provincial Court collapsed on the scheduled trial date because of guilty pleas, stays of proceedings, bench warrants or adjournments. In this same timeframe, only 4% of all criminal files actually proceeded to a hearing in the Provincial Court. These statistics reveal that too many criminal files are set for trial and do not proceed causing significant scheduling difficulties and inefficient use of court time.

These concerns are amplified in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Provincial Court is implementing this practice direction to help address these concerns by mandating pre-trial conferences for criminal files (adult and youth) at all Provincial Court locations in the Province. This practice direction also represents one of the steps the Court is taking to resume court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring public health continues to be protected.

Purpose

There are two main purposes behind these pre-trial conferences. The first is to reduce the number of files being set for trial by helping to ensure that only those requiring a trial are actually set for hearing. The second purpose is to manage those files that are to be set for trial to ensure that accurate time estimates have been determined prior to dates being set and ensure hearings complete on time as scheduled.

The practice direction’s overarching aim is to reduce these inefficiencies in the criminal justice system by employing pre-trial conferences as a tool for the participants to collaborate and conduct cases more efficiently for the overall benefit of the administration of justice. The Court is committed to ensuring the fair, efficient and timely resolution of criminal files and to upholding the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time. Using pre-trial conferences to help reduce day of trial collapse rates and trial continuations is an important part of that commitment.

Application

This practice directive applies to adult and youth criminal files in the Provincial Court as follows:

  1. Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries, and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries originally scheduled during March 16 to May 16, 2020 (“COVID #1”) and May 19 to July 3, 2020 (“COVID #2”), excluding summary proceedings court files;
  2. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring during COVID #1 and COVID #2, excluding summary proceedings court files;
  3. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring after July 3, 2020 requiring one day or more of trial time; and
  4. Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries, and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries scheduled to start commencing July 6, 2020 and onwards requiring one day or more of trial time that are not able to proceed due to lack of court time or are otherwise adjourned.
  5. All new adult and youth files with charges occurring after July 3, 2020 requiring one day of trial time where a pre-trial conference is requested by both counsel.

All files set out in 1 and 4 above must have a pre-trial conference before a new trial or preliminary inquiry date is scheduled. All files set out in 2 and 3 above must have a pre-trial conference before being scheduled for a trial or preliminary inquiry.

Where the accused has more than one criminal file with at least one file as described in 1, 2, 3, or 4 above, their other file(s) may be included in the pre-trial conference for resolution discussions. Counsel should provide these additional file numbers to the Judicial Case Manager when scheduling the pre-trial conference.

Effective September 28, 2020, this practice direction only applies to files where the accused is represented by counsel. Self-represented accused with trials requiring one day or more of trial time will have a pre-trial conference set before a judge, preferably the trial judge, approximately 8 to 10 weeks before the first date of trial for trial management purposes as described in NP 19.

Directions

A. General

  1. The pre-trial conference judge will not be the trial judge if the matter proceeds to trial. If the matter is resolved prior to trial, the disposition may be done by the pre-trial conference judge or assigned to another judge. Where multiple pre-trial conferences occur on a file, the pre-trial conferences will be conducted by the same judge unless that judge is unavailable.
  2. Pre-trial conferences will take place during court sitting hours unless reasonable accommodation of counsel’s schedule is required. Pre-trial conferences will be set in 30 to 45 minute intervals, although counsel may request additional time if they feel it will be required.
  3. Unless otherwise ordered by the pre-trial conference judge, pre-trial conferences will be held via videoconference or audioconference and off the record.
  4. Crown counsel with conduct of the file1 (“Crown counsel”) and counsel for the accused must attend all pre-trial conferences, unless the pre-trial conference judge directs otherwise.

B. Before the pre-trial conference

  1. Before a pre-trial conference, Crown counsel and counsel for the accused must have:
    1. Thoroughly reviewed their files, and
    2. Discussed with each other the issues set out in paragraph 8.
  2. The parties may provide, and are encouraged to provide, the opposite party and the pre-trial conference judge with any materials that may assist with resolution discussions and trial management issues. Unless the parties agree otherwise, these materials are to be used only for pre-trial conference purposes; these materials will not be added to the court file and will be returned to the submitting party if requested or destroyed when no longer necessary for those purposes. At a minimum, Crown counsel must provide a Crown Synopsis in Form 1 (CRIM 12), a copy of the Information Crown counsel is proceeding on, and any criminal record of the accused. At least three business days prior to a scheduled pre-trial conference, the parties must exchange copies of all materials for the pre-trial conference and must deliver, electronically or otherwise, a copy of those materials to the Judicial Case Manager at the applicable court location for the attention of the pre-trial conference judge.
  3. If Crown counsel or counsel for the accused requests a preliminary inquiry, that party shall file a Statement of Issues and Witnesses in Form 2 (CRIM 12) unless otherwise ordered by the Court. The statement is to be filed with the Court preferably at the arraignment hearing.

C. At the pre-trial conference

  1. At a pre-trial conference, the parties are required to have authority and be prepared to make decisions about:
    1. resolution of the matter;
    2. disclosure;
    3. applications, including ones pursuant to the Charter, that the parties will bring at or before trial;
    4. the number and identity of witnesses the Crown counsel intends to call at the preliminary inquiry or at trial;
    5. any admissions the parties are willing to make;
    6. any legal issues that the parties anticipate may arise in the proceeding; and
    7. an estimate of the time needed to complete the proceeding.

      Parties should review the Pre-Trial Conference Checklist for the types of issues that may be discussed at the pre-trial conference.
      Commentary: In order to ensure they are able to make decisions on these issues, counsel for the accused must have communicated with their client to obtain instructions. For Crown counsel, they must have communicated with any civilian witnesses essential to the viability of the prosecution (for example, sex assault complainants) in order to assess their reliability and level of interest in the matter as well as obtain any resolution input where that may be appropriate.

      The pre-trial conference judge will proactively canvass resolution in order to avoid setting trial dates. If the accused or their counsel require some time before proceeding to disposition, they should not be setting trial dates to obtain that time but rather pleading guilty and obtaining that time by adjourning the disposition. For Crown counsel, they need to be reasonable and realistic in their sentencing positions and exercise “enhanced discretion for resolving individual cases” (Jordan, para. 138). The pre-trial conference judge will also proactively canvass the issues to reduce them to only those requiring adjudication, and then determining both how much time will be required and how the file is to be scheduled. The intention is to ensure that those files that actually proceed to trial complete as scheduled thereby avoiding continuation dates that generate further delays in completing criminal proceedings.

D. After the pre-trial conference

  1. After hearing from the parties during a pre-trial conference, the pre-trial conference judge may take one or more of the following steps:
    1. make any case management directions or orders;
    2. confirm or amend the estimates of the time required to hear the proceeding;
    3. set timelines for the exchange of materials on applications to be heard, or for the completion of disclosure;
    4. set parameters for the hearing of applications;
    5. confirm any admissions made on the record and have all parties sign off on the admissions in writing;
    6. adjourn to the Judicial Case Manager to set a date for:
      1. a subsequent pre-trial conference;
      2. disposition;
      3. preliminary inquiry; or
      4. trial.
    7. take any further steps or provide any further directions consistent with the purpose of this Practice Direction.
  2. Following the conclusion of a pre-trial conference, any directions or orders made by the pre-trial conference judge may be reduced to writing or otherwise recorded.
  3. If the matter is confirmed or set for hearing, a pre-trial conference will be set prior to the first date of hearing to ensure the matter will still be proceeding on the scheduled dates. If following this pre-trial conference, the file remains set for hearing, the pre-trial conference judge will then complete a Pre-Trial Conference Record, including any agreements or admissions, and have it placed in the court file.

    Commentary: The parties can again expect the pre-trial conference judge to proactively pursue resolution and trial manage the file at this pre-trial conference. The Pre-Trial Conference Record will record any admissions, trial scheduling directions, witness issues and other details the trial judge needs to know for conducting the trial.
  4. If following a pre-trial conference, the matter is confirmed or scheduled for trial or preliminary inquiry, the pre-trial conference judge may complete a Pre-Trial Conference Report and have it placed in the court file. The Pre-Trial Conference Report will provide information the trial judge needs to know for conducting the trial, including any admissions, agreements, orders or trial scheduling directions made, and any issues that are expected to arise. If counsel wish to receive a copy of this Report, they can obtain it from the court file at the originating registry or they can request it be sent to them electronically by providing their e-mail addresses to the pre-trial conference judge at the pre-trial conference.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction dated April 28, 2020.
  • See also NP 19 COVID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations.
  • The Supreme Court of British Columbia has issued CPD-3, Criminal Practice Direction.
  • Updated practice direction dated June 12, 2020 revising “Application” section and changing reference in para. A2 from “one hour” to “30 to 45 minute”. • Updated practice direction dated July 2, 2020 revising “Application” section.
  • Updated practice direction effective September 28, 2020 (revises “Application” section and makes consequential amendments; deletes Pre-Trial Conference Record and adds Pre-Trial Conference Checklist and Report); adds para. 12.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 3 of the Provincial Court of British Columbia Criminal Caseflow Management Rules, SI/99-104.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

1 For the purpose of this Practice Direction, “Crown counsel with conduct of the file” may include the applicable “Intake Crown” until the “Trial Crown” is assigned.

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Effective Date: 28 September 2020 (unless otherwise stated in this Notice)
NP 19 (New additions in red)

NOTICE TO THE PROFESSION AND PUBLIC

COVID-19: RESUMPTION OF FURTHER COURT OPERATIONS

The Provincial Court of British Columbia recognizes that the Province is still impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chief Public Health Officers of Canada and the Province still require people to keep a safe distance from each other, but currently there can be a cautious reopening of public places with health and safety protocols in place to minimize the transmission of the virus. Taking this into account, the Provincial Court has developed the plan set out in this Notice to resume further court operations.

As of July 13, 2020, Provincial Court registries will be accepting all filings at the applicable court registry either in-person or remotely (by mail, email, fax to fax filing registries under GEN 01 Practice Direction, or using Court Services Online where available). To protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining access to the Court, parties are encouraged to use remote filing options wherever possible.

Criminal, family, small claims, and youth court trials and hearings scheduled after July 3, 2020 will remain on the trial list on the date scheduled. Counsel and self-represented litigants should attend court in-person on the date scheduled at 9:00 AM to advise if they are ready to proceed that day. The Court will determine which trials will proceed. Witnesses and parties represented by counsel are to wait outside the courthouse (within a 30 minute distance) and be prepared to be called to attend court in-person. Criminal trials, preliminary inquiries and continuations of trials and preliminary inquiries (excluding summary proceedings court files) that are not able to proceed due to lack of court time or are otherwise adjourned will be scheduled for a pre-trial conference before a new hearing date is scheduled. Family and small claims case conferences will proceed by audio or videoconference on their scheduled dates. The directions in this Notice are subject to change as circumstances of the pandemic change.

Download this Notice to the Profession and Public.

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Effective Date: 15 September 2020
NP 22 (new additions in red)

Purpose

Further to our Announcement of May 26, 2020 and NP 19 Notice to the Profession and Public - COVID 19 Resumption of Court Operations, the Provincial Court is now hearing proceedings remotely and in-person throughout the Province. The Court remains mindful of the need to protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19, while maintaining access to the Court. This Notice outlines the health and safety protocols that will be in place in the courtrooms. It is subject to amendment if there are changes in the COVID-19 situation in British Columbia. Judges, Judicial Justices, and Judicial Case Managers (“Judicial Officers”) have the discretion to direct more detailed precautions depending on the circumstances of a particular court proceeding.

Summary

The health and safety protocols that will be implemented follow the initial orienting principles on safe and accessible courts approved by the federal Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19, which say: “[The Public Health Agency of Canada] recommends employing a hierarchy of control measures, conceived of as a reverse pyramid, to effectively mitigate risk. This approach reflects the requirements of applicable federal, provincial, and territorial occupational health and safety legislation. Elimination of the hazard is the first control measure to be considered. Consequently, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing is the foundation for any risk mitigation strategy. Additional elements can be introduced where physical distancing is impossible or insufficient.”

The Provincial Government has retained the services of a private consultant to assist in identifying the necessary steps to modify courtrooms and courthouses to mitigate the risk of transmission of the virus. Please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s webpage summarizing the steps Government has taken to ensure everyone’s safety at all resumed inperson proceedings, including the steps they are taking regarding the verbal screening process with respect to COVID-19 for people entering courthouses, cleaning protocols, and social distancing protocols inside the courthouse.

All persons attending courtrooms will be required to participate and cooperate to attain the recommended COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This includes practicing physical distancing, sanitizing hands upon entry of a courthouse or courtroom, and adhering to all other recommended health and safety protocols and directions.

The Provincial Court will continue to assess the situation on an ongoing basis. We thank all of the stakeholders who have provided input and information regarding the resumption of priority in-person proceedings. We recognize managing the physical distancing and other health and safety protocols will take the effort and cooperation of all court participants and we thank you in advance for your patience and cooperation.

Notice

1. Addressing instances of symptomatic participants

Counsel and self represented parties must be in a position to confirm at the opening of a proceeding, and at the start of each day of the proceeding, that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side (including counsel, the party, the accused or witnesses) has any symptoms of illness that may be related to COVID-19. The BC Centre for Disease Control website advises that the symptoms of COVID-19 can include the following:

  1. fever
  2. chills
  3. cough
  4. shortness of breath
  5. sore throat and painful swallowing
  6. stuffy or runny nose
  7. loss of sense of smell
  8. headache
  9. muscle aches
  10. fatigue
  11. loss of appetite
  12. less commonly, gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Counsel and self represented parties must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom.

During and after the proceeding, if counsel and self-represented parties become aware that anyone who has been present in court has experienced any symptoms related to COVID-19 or that anyone has come into close contact with a person with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 during the previous 14 days, they must notify the relevant public health officials and the local courthouse manager and follow any directions provided.

2. Witnesses

Prior to the proceeding, counsel or parties must determine if any potential witness is reluctant to attend court due to health-related concerns or for other reasons related to the public health emergency. If you become aware of this information in advance of the scheduled proceeding, parties should arrange to address the question of whether the witness can give evidence by other means, such as by affidavit or testimony by telephone or videoconferencing, etc. It will be up to parties (or their counsel) to make the necessary inquiries with Court Services Branch to ensure there are sufficient resources at the applicable court location for witnesses to appear remotely by video or audio conference, and to ensure that witnesses have the technology to appear remotely.

3. Courtroom Layout

The physical layout of the courtroom, including the position of counsel and the witness will be altered where possible to maintain a safe physical distance between all participants. Where physical distancing between all parties in the court can be achieved through the movement of furniture, plexiglass barriers will not be necessary. In areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, barriers will be installed. The ability to move within the courtroom, such as by approaching a witness, will be restricted for physical distancing purposes.

Communication between counsel and parties

Counsel must consider how they intend to confer with co-counsel and their clients in the courtroom while maintaining a safe physical distance. Counsel should seek direction from the presiding Judicial Officer to communicate with co-counsel or their client by text message or another method that would not normally be acceptable in court.

Water

There will be no water jugs available in the courtroom during a proceeding. Counsel, parties, interpreters, and witnesses will be permitted to bring their own water in clear plastic bottles that are no larger than one litre in volume. Persons who bring their own water bottles should dispose of or remove them when leaving courtroom. Sheriffs will provide water for in custody accused.

Public and media

In order to maintain a safe physical distance in the public gallery between members of the media and public, the number of seats available will be reduced. If counsel or a party is aware of anyone who intends to observe all or part of the proceeding, they should advise those individuals that while the court remains open to the public, seating is limited, and entry into the courtroom will not be permitted if the safe physical distancing requirements cannot be maintained.

4. Facial Masks and Coverings

Participants in a proceeding, including counsel, parties and witnesses, are encouraged and permitted to wear a mask or protective face covering in the courtroom if they wish to do so, subject to direction from the Judicial Officer, if removal of a mask is necessary in order for the participant’s evidence or submissions to be heard and understood. Participants should be aware that the Judicial Officer, the sheriff, and the court clerk may or may not wear a mask in the courtroom.

5. Oaths or Affirmations

All witnesses testifying in court will presumptively affirm. If a witness wishes to give evidence under oath rather than by affirmation, they must bring a Bible or other religious book or sacred object to court, and take the article with them when leaving court. There will be no Bibles or other religious books available in the courtroom.

6. Documents, Exhibits, and Authorities

Pre-trial conferences will include a discussion about measures that can be taken to reduce the number of physical exhibits entered, including a discussion around whether documents can be provided electronically.

Any party needing to handle an exhibit can use tissues provided and/or use hand sanitizer after handling the exhibit. Gloves may also be available in some locations.

Counsel and self-represented parties must make every effort to limit documentary evidence and case authorities to those that are truly necessary. The Court has always discouraged the practice of filing binders of documents as exhibits that may not be referred to in evidence; that practice is particularly discouraged in the current circumstances. For books of authorities, counsel should include only those cases to which they need to, and will, refer.

Movement of documents and exhibits in the courtroom where unavoidable

Where the passing of copies of documents or physical exhibits to others in the courtroom is unavoidable, counsel and self-represented parties must use the hand sanitizer available in the courtroom to sanitize their hands before and after handling the documents. In addition to hand sanitizer, there may be a supply of gloves in the courtroom for anyone who wishes to use them, as well as instructions for the safe use, removal, and disposal of gloves.

In order to maintain a safe physical distance between counsel, the court clerk, and the witness, documents and exhibits should be placed on the document table before the court clerk and the Judicial Officer enter the courtroom. Where this is not possible or appropriate, at the time a document or exhibit is to be handed up, counsel or self-represented parties must place it on a document table and then return to counsel table at which point the court clerk will pick it up and hand it to the Judicial Officer or witness.

7. Cleaning and Sanitation

Government has retained additional daytime cleaning services during this COVID-19 period to ensure that the high touch areas in courtrooms and courthouse are cleaned frequently.

The courtroom will be cleaned at the end of each court day, including the witness box, accused box, counsel tables, court clerk desk, the judicial bench, public seating areas, and all other areas of the courtroom where people sit. A porter will clean and disinfect all touchpoints after each user (witness, accused, counsel, party, clerk, and Judicial Officer).

A courtroom attendant will wipe down the witness box, including the microphone, horizontal surfaces of the stand, armrests, and handrails after each witness finishes their testimony and at the end of each court day.

In order to facilitate the cleaning of counsel tables, the court requests that counsel who are appearing over multiple days on a particular matter remove their materials from the courtroom each night. If this is not possible or practical (e.g., because of the volume of materials), counsel should pack up their materials into boxes and store them underneath the counsel table.

Hand sanitizer will be available at the judicial bench, counsel tables, the witness stand, and the clerk’s desk. All people attending court will be expected to use hand sanitizer frequently and will be required to apply sanitizer upon their entry to the courtroom.

For more information and details about cleaning protocols, please refer to the Ministry of Attorney General’s webpage.

8. Steps being taken to reduce the number of people attending court

As of July 13, 2020, Provincial Court registries are accepting all filings at the applicable court registry either in-person or remotely (by mail, email, fax to fax filing registries under GEN 01 Practice Direction, or using Court Services Online where available). To protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining access to the Court, parties are encouraged to use remote filing options wherever possible.

Counsel attendance at court should be limited to those counsel who are appearing on a matter scheduled in court that day, where something substantive is happening. Counsel are encouraged to connect with witnesses and clients in advance of attending at the courthouse to ensure that the matter will proceed on the date scheduled, and that all of the court participants are not exhibiting any symptoms associated with COVID-19. If the matter will not be proceeding, please contact the Judicial Case Manger immediately to advise them. If the only purpose is to adjourn a matter to another date, neither counsel nor their client should attend court. Rather, in these circumstances, please see,for example:

for the processes to adjourn matters remotely. Counsel are also encouraged to obtain a designation of counsel on all indictable offences.

The Judicial Case Manager’s offices operate on a remote basis only at this time.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public effective June 05, 2020.
  • See also NP 19 COVID-19: Commencing Recovery of Some Court Operations.
  • The Supreme Court of British Columbia’s COVID-19 Notices and Announcements are posted here.
  • Amended Notice to Profession and Public effective on July 13, 2020 (housekeeping amendments consequential to NP 19 COVID: Resumption of Court Operations – July 13, 2020).
  • Amended Notice to Profession and Public effective on September 15, 2020 (adds to para. 1 that counsel must also be in a position to confirm that to their knowledge, no one involved on their side traveled outside Canada within 14 days of their anticipated in person appearance in a courtroom; and deletes last paragraph regarding unavailability of public listening stations).

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Date Issued: 17 July 2020
Effective Date: 17 July 2020
Updates 19 August (New additions in red)

NP 23

Purpose

The BC Provincial Court sits in many court locations in the province. We have been working with government and in some cases, local communities, to have the consultant that government has retained view the circuit courts and make recommendations about what steps need to be taken to make those courts safe and accessible to members of the public. Once the consultant has viewed those court locations, we continue to work with government to implement the recommended changes so that existing matters can be heard in those locations in a timely way.

To reduce the number of people attending circuit court, counsel attendance at court should be limited to appearing on a matter scheduled in court where something substantive is happening. Counsel must endeavor to avoid unnecessary personal attendances of the accused or counsel at the courthouse wherever possible. Please refer to “Alternatives to in-person appearance” in CRIM 13 Practice Direction: Initial Appearance Court During COVID-19 and Notice to the Profession and Public COVID 19: Resumption of Court Operations.

Counsel are encouraged to use the Consent Requisition or Consent Arraignment forms to have files removed from the list prior to the scheduled court date if nothing substantive will occur on that date. We have attached a list below of the Judicial Case Managers and the circuit courts they are responsible for scheduling.

If you require legal assistance with your matter, you may contact Legal Aid at 1-866-577-2525.

Notice

1. ADJOURNED MATTERS

Matters scheduled in Fernie on July 23 and New Aiyansh on July 6 are adjourned until the “adjourned to” date in the table below without the parties having to attend Court. A party or counsel may contact the Judicial Case Manager at the applicable court location prior to the “adjourned to” date and arrange to have the Court determine, by telephone, whether the matter is urgent.

COURT LOCATION IF YOUR MATTER WAS
ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR …
YOUR MATTER IS
ADJOURNED TO...
Fernie July 23, 2020 September 1, 2020
New Aiyansh July 6, 2020 September 14, 2020

2. MATTERS SCHEDULED

If your court location is listed in the table immediately below, you will be required to contact the scheduling contact noted below for your location (by email or telephone) before the date you were originally scheduled to attend Court in order to set your next appearance date or to be provided with information regarding your next appearance date. If you do not know when your next court date is, you can also contact the scheduling contact noted below to obtain that information.

COURT LOCATION SCHEDULING CONTACT
100 Mile House Cariboo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-398-4377
Atlin L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Anahim Lake Cariboo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-398-4377
Bella Bella Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Bella Coola  Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Burns Lake Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Castlegar WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
Chetwynd Peace.District.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-787-3416
Clearwater Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Creston EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Dease Lake Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Fernie EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Fort St. James PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Fraser Lake PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2756
Ganges/Saltspring Dun.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-746-1201
Gold River CampbellRiver.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-286-7556 (Mon and Tue)
250-334-1237 (Wed, Thu, and Fri)
Golden EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Good Hope Lake L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Grand Forks WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
Hazelton Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Houston Smithers.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Invermere EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Kitimat Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Klemtu Vanessa.Fong@gov.bc.ca
236-468-3628
Kwadacha DKrenz@provincialcourt.bc.ca
Lillooet Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Lower Post L.Caporale@provnicialcourt.bc.ca
Mackenzie PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Masset PrinceRupert.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
McBride PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2756
Merritt Kamloops.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-828-4086
Nakusp WKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-354-6870
New Aiyansh Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Pemberton NVan.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
604-981-0293
Queen Charlotte City PrinceRupert.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-847-7482
Revelstoke Vernon.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-549-5433
Sparwood EKootenays.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-426-1354
Stewart Terrace.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-638-2140
Tofino Nanaimo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-741-5868
Tsay Key Dene DKrenz@provincialcourt.bc.ca
Tumbler Ridge Peace.District.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-787-3416
Valemount PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Vanderhoof PG.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-614-2740 or 250-614-2756
Ucluelet Nanaimo.Scheduling@provincialcourt.bc.ca
250-741-5868

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE, AND ANY UPDATES WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued on July 17, 2020. This Notice includes information from the Circuit Courts - Update – July 3, 2020.
  • Updates to locations and manner of hearing July 29, 2020.
  • Updates to locations and manner of hearing August 7, 2020.
  • Updates to charts and contact information August 19, 2020.

By Direction of Chief Judge Melissa Gillespie
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective Date: 29 July 2020
NP 21

NOTICE TO THE PROFESSION AND PUBLIC
GUIDE TO REMOTE PROCEEDINGS

Purpose

In light of the extraordinary circumstances during the current public health emergency, and as described in NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Court Operations, some court proceedings will be held remotely by audioconference or videoconference until further notice, unless otherwise ordered by a judge. Although the court proceeding is taking place remotely and judges, parties, lawyers, and court staff may attend by audioconference or videoconference, it remains a formal setting.

This Notice provides information for anyone who will appear before the Provincial Court for a remote proceeding beginning May 7, 2020 until further notice. In this Notice, the term “remote proceeding” means a hearing or case conference conducted by audioconference (including telephone or Microsoft Teams) or videoconference (including Microsoft Teams).

A step-by-step guide to appearing in a Microsoft Teams audioconference or videoconference proceeding is attached as Appendix “A”. It contains detailed information about connecting to and managing a Microsoft Teams audioconference or videoconference. Review the guide carefully before your matter proceeds.

Notice

Remote Proceeding Etiquette

In some ways, the behaviour expected of people appearing remotely is the same as if they were actually in a courtroom. However, conducting a proceeding fairly and effectively by audioconference or videoconference requires some modification to etiquette and behaviour. The following list is not exhaustive, but provides some guidelines for the best practices to follow during a remote conference or hearing:

  1. For audioconference and videoconference proceedings
    1. No recording: You are not permitted to audio- or video-record any portion of a remote proceeding. Some proceedings are confidential and there may be a publication ban in effect. The BC Courts’ Policy on the Use of Electronic Devices sets out penalties for recording, including prosecution. If you need a transcript of a hearing, it is possible to order one from the transcription service from the court registry.
    2. Confidentiality: The conversation between the parties, their counsel (if represented), and the judge in a case conference or pre-trial conference is private and confidential. Only parties and/or their counsel should appear at the conference and no-one else should be present, unless otherwise permitted by the conference judge. Do not forward or share the meeting link or dial up information to any unauthorized individuals.
    3. Location: The Court understands that you do not have the advantage of appearing in a controlled courtroom environment. You may be participating from a small, shared living space. Please make reasonable efforts to find a quiet, private space with a neutral background for your court appearance.
    4. Mute microphone: To minimize background noise, mute your microphone when you are not speaking. If you are using a computer, close applications on your computer, such as Twitter, Facebook, and email, that are not needed so you are not interrupted during the proceeding. Also, put your cell phone to silent mode.
    5. Introductions: When you first join the remote proceeding, identify yourself (and who you represent, if applicable).
    6. Speak clearly and slowly: Remember to unmute before speaking. Speak clearly and slowly enough for everyone to follow what you are saying. Pause frequently to allow the judge to ask questions and avoid speaking over the judge or other participants. This is particularly important when there is an interpreter. Mute the microphone again when done speaking. Follow the judge’s directions about when to speak or ask questions.
    7. Objecting, responding or commenting: If you find it necessary to object to, respond to, or comment on something that an opposing party has said and it cannot wait:
      • if on video, click on the raise hand button or raise your hand to signal to the judge that you wish to speak; and
      • if on audio, respectfully interrupt the conversation when appropriate to let the judge know that you have something to say.
    8. Forms of address: A Provincial Court Judge is called “Your Honour”. For the other party and/or their lawyer ask in advance how they wish to be addressed.
    9. Time limits: Time limits may have been set in advance, or the judge may set them during the conference or hearing. You must follow them to make sure everyone has a fair chance to be heard.
    10. Materials: Collect and organize the documents you will need in advance, and make sure you have them with you for the hearing or conference.
    11. Use pen and paper: Take notes with a pen and paper. The sound of typing can be distracting, and make it hard to hear others. Avoid shuffling papers as that also can be distracting.
    12. No food or drink: As in a courtroom, do not eat or drink anything but water during the proceeding.
  2. For audioconference proceedings
    1. ​Answering the call from the Court: Telephone hearings are recorded by the Court. When you answer the court clerk’s call, introduce yourself by saying your first and last name. The court clerk will note the names of all the parties and lawyers attending the hearing on the court record.
    2. Say your name whenever you start speaking. At an audioconference proceeding, it can be hard to know which person is talking.
    3. Audio connection: If using a telephone, a land line works better than a cell phone. In either case, do not use the speaker phone function. Instead, use a hand-held phone or use a set of headphones with a built-in mic and mute feature. If possible, avoid the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
  3. For videoconference proceedings
    1. ​Dress appropriately: Judges will be dressed as they would for any settlement or family case conference to reflect the professionalism of the Court. Dress as if you are attending an in-person proceeding in a courtroom. Click on the link for more information on how to dress for court.
    2. Arrive early: YYou should be prepared to join the videoconference proceeding at least 15 minutes before the start of the proceeding, to allow time to address any technical issues. Before the videoconference proceeding starts, you will enter a virtual waiting room and remain there until the proceeding begins.
    3. Use your name when prompted for a screen name: When you join the videoconference proceeding, you will be asked to enter your name. The name that you enter will be displayed for all participants to see. Type your first and last name.
    4. Sitting and Standing: You do not need to stand when the videoconference proceeding starts or ends, and you can remain seated when addressing the judge..
    5. Bowing: You do not need to bow at any time during the videoconference proceeding.
    6. Focus on your camera: Direct eye contact is important. When speaking, look into the camera rather than at the person(s) that you are speaking to.
    7. Technical difficulties: If the image and sound quality is interrupted, ask whether other participants can still hear you. If so, continue speaking as the image will reappear once bandwidth returns to normal. If problems continue, it may be necessary for some of the participants to turn off their video. If the session ends unexpectedly, please try re-connecting. If the Microsoft Teams video platform is not working, the Court will contact the parties either to provide Telus teleconference dial-in details or to reconnect the parties directly by audioconference, so all parties may continue the proceeding by dialing in from any telephone.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued and effective on May 7, 2020.
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public effective on July 13, 2020 (housekeeping amendments consequential to NP 19 COVID 19: Resumption of Court Operations – July 13, 2020).
  • Revised section on how to address counsel and parties on July 29, 2020.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

Download the Full NP 21 with Appendices
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Effective Date: 22 July 2020
FAM 09

PRACTICE DIRECTION
CONSENT ADJOURNMENT (FLA/FMEA)

Purpose

To set out the procedure for adjourning matters under the Family Law Act, S.B.C. 2011, c. 25 (FLA) or the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 127 (FMEA) from one family remand date to another or to adjourn generally.

Application

This practice direction applies to all court registries in the Province.

Direction

  1. Effective July 16, 2020 until further direction, counsel may complete and file a Consent Adjournment Form (Form) by email to the applicable local court registry to adjourn matters under the FLA or FMEA from one family remand date to another or to adjourn generally (“filing counsel”), where at least one party is represented by counsel and the filing counsel has obtained the consent of all other parties or their counsel.
  2. Filing counsel shall use one Form for each court file and each remand date, and may only use the Form where counsel is adjourning a matter from one list date to another with the same time estimate (or less).
  3. Filing counsel shall select one of the following on the Form:
    1.  Adjourned to one of the following two (2) available dates/times to be set by the Registry” (the court registry will confirm the new date by reply email);
    2. Adjourned to date/time” for matters previously scheduled by the JCM where the new date has been provided by the JCM;
    3. Adjourned to the JCM to be rescheduled” if the appearance was previously scheduled by a JCM, unless they have already obtained a date from the JCM in advance; or 
    4. Adjourned generally”.
  4. Filing counsel shall email the Form to the applicable local court registry by 4:00 p.m. at least two clear business days in advance of the scheduled appearance.
  5. Except where adjourned to the JCM to reschedule or adjourned generally, filing counsel shall provide all other parties or their counsel with a copy of the filed Form with the new family remand date and appearance details provided by the court registry.
  6. The Consent Adjournment Form cannot be used to adjourn trials. Please use the Consent to Court Date Form to adjourn trials.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction effective July 16, 2020.
  • Revised practice direction effective July 22, 2020: clarifies role of filing counsel; changes filing requirement from one to two clear business days in advance in para. 4; and adds para. 5.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 20(13) of the Provincial Court (Family) Rules, B.C. Reg. 417/98.

 

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective date: 16 July 2020
FAM 07

PRACTICE DIRECTION
CFCSA CONSENT REQUISITIONS

Purpose

To set out the procedure for adjourning matters under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 46 (CFCSA) where all parties consent.

Application

This practice direction applies to all court registries in the Province.

Direction

  1. Effective March 27, 2020 until further direction, Director’s counsel may file a Consent Requisition Form to adjourn CFCSA matters upon obtaining the written consent of all parties.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction dated March 27, 2020.
  • Revised practice direction effective July 16, 2020 removing reference to “non-urgent”.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 8(11) of the Provincial Court (Child, Family and Community Services Act) Rules, B.C. Reg. 533/95.

 

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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Effective Date: 13 July 2020
NP 14

The following are the duties, classes of cases or matters to which Court Services Justices of the Peace (JPs) are assigned:

  1. a. All matters relating to receiving informations.
    b. Issuing process compelling the attendance of a person except:
    1. Private informations pursuant to s. 507.1 of the Criminal Code;
    2. Where such process requires a warrant or authorization to enter a dwelling house, premises or other place;
    3. Subpoenas requiring opposing counsel to give evidence.
  2. a. Consent remand(s) of persons in custody pursuant to s. 516 of the Criminal Code where the accused is represented. This assignment does not include making no contact orders under s. 516(2) of the Criminal Code.
    b. All matters relating to voluntary appearances on unexecuted small claims warrants of arrest issued under Small Claims Rule 14(6) and releases of persons arrested on warrants issued under Provincial Court (Family) Rule 6(13), Provincial Court (Adult Guardianship) Rule 3(8), and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, s. 23(6).
    c. Where a youth court judge is not reasonably available, giving directions regarding the giving of notice pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), s. 26(5) (as connected with any youth bail); and adjourning proceedings or dispensing with notice pursuant to YCJA, s. 26(10).
  3. All matters relating to the approval of sureties, the perfection of bail, and the rendering of an adult or youth by a surety or responsible person under s. 766, 767, or 767.1 of the Criminal Code or s. 31(5) of the YCJA.
  4. a. Orders for the initial detention of seized items and further orders for detention of seized items, where the application is uncontested.
    b. Orders for the return or forfeiture of seized items where application is made by a prosecutor, peace officer or other person having custody of the items seized and there is no dispute or uncertainty as to the lawful owner or the lawful owner is unknown.
  5. Applications for time to pay or extensions of time to pay unless otherwise ordered by a provincial court judge. A JP who can grant time to pay can also issue a warrant of committal for a person who voluntarily chooses to serve time in custody rather than pay.
  6. Adjournments (i) in the context of performing assigned duties or (ii) on the direction of a judge (and where jurisdiction to grant adjournments is given to a judge or the court under an enactment, authorization is given pursuant to s. 31(1) of the Provincial Court Act to exercise all the powers and jurisdiction of the court with respect to adjournments).
  7. When exercising the functions of a CSB trial scheduler, fixing of dates for preliminary inquiry, trial, hearing, conference or other proceeding.
  8. Receiving oaths, affirmations, affidavits and declarations as required by federal or provincial Evidence Acts or otherwise by law.
  9. Desk Orders for Accredited Journalists, who are provided audio recordings of Court proceedings on removable media (such as compact disk) pursuant to the Access to Court Records Policy or by file transfer protocol pursuant to NM 01 Accredited Media Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19.
  10. Where approved by the Chief Judge, and as required for backup coverage of Judicial Case Managers, any matter that a Judicial Case Manager is assigned to perform.
  11. Applications by mail to unseal an applicant’s own adult criminal pardoned or suspended files for travel purposes.

History of Notice to the Profession and Public

  • Original Notice to the Profession and Public issued on August 22, 2018 and effective October 1, 2018 (removes from previous Assignment: (i) “all matters involving judicial interim release that are uncontested as to release and the form and conditions of release including uncontested variations of existing release orders and making a detention order where counsel consent”; and (ii) making a no contact order under s. 516(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada where the accused is represented and by consent).
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public issued on November 27, 2018 and effective December 1, 2018 (adds “Applications by mail to unseal an applicant’s own adult criminal pardoned or suspended files for travel purposes”).
  • Amended Notice to the Profession and Public effective July 13, 2020 (adds “Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, s. 23(6)” to para. 2b and adds “or by file transfer protocol pursuant to NM 01 Accredited Media Access to Provincial Court Proceedings during COVID-19” to para. 9).

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia

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July 3, 2020 (update July 10, 2020 in red)

The BC Provincial Court sits in many court locations in the province. Currently, we are working with government and in some cases, local communities, to have the consultant that government has retained view the circuit courts and make recommendations about what steps need to be taken to make those courts safe and accessible to members of the public.

Once the consultant has viewed those court locations, we will work with government to implement the recommended changes so that existing matters can be heard in those locations in a timely way. In some locations this work has been completed and in-person hearings are noted below.

In other locations when the circuit courts have been modified to address COVID related concerns, including ensuring that physical distancing can be maintained, they will be opened and scheduled matters will proceed. Until these circuit courts have been re-opened, matters on the circuit court list locations will be heard on the day they are scheduled by audioconference. Either the audioconference information or the contact information for the Registry to obtain call in details is listed beside each Court location.

Counsel are encouraged to use the Consent Requisition or Consent Arraignment forms to have files removed from the list prior to the scheduled court date if nothing substantial will occur on that date. We have attached a list below of the Judicial Case Managers and the circuit courts they are responsible for scheduling.

If you require legal assistance with your matter, you may contact Legal Aid at 1-866-577-2525.

Download a PDF of this Notice

1. ADJOURNED MATTERS

Matters currently scheduled in Creston, Fernie, Invermere and New Aiyansh for the dates in the table immediately below are adjourned until the “adjourned to” date without the parties having to attend Court. A party or counsel may contact the Judicial Case Manager at the applicable court location prior to the “adjourned to” date and arrange to have the Court determine, by telephone, whether the matter is urgent.

COURT LOCATION IF YOUR MATTER WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR… YOUR MATTER IS ADJOURNED TO...
Creston July 9, 2020 August 7, 2020
Fernie July 23, 2020 September 1, 2020
Invermere July 7, 2020 July 27, 2020
New Aiyansh July 6, 2020 September 14 ,2020

2. MATTERS SCHEDULED

Matters currently scheduled on the dates and in the locations set out below will be heard on the day they were originally scheduled either in-person or, alternatively, by audioconference.

INTERIOR
REGION
COURT
LOCATION
DATE MATTERS SCHEDULED JUDICIAL CASE MANAGER CONTACT YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD.... IF YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD BY AUDIO CONFERENCE PLEASE CONTACT THE COURT REGISTRY FOR DIAL IN INFORMATION IN ADVANCE OF THE SCHEDULED DATE
Golden July 14 EKootenays.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
In-person not applicable
Invermere July 14, 15, and 16 EKootenays.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
In-person not applicable
Lillooet July 14, 15, and 16 Kamloops.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-828-4344
Merritt July 7, 8, 9, 10 Kamloops.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-828-4344
Princeton July 7, 8 and 9 Penticton.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-492-1231
Revelstoke July 7, 8 and 9 Vernon.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-832-1610

 


NORTHERN
REGION
COURT
LOCATION
DATE
MATTERS
SCHEDULED
JUDICIAL
CASE
MANAGER
CONTACT
YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD.... IF YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD BY AUDIO CONFERENCE PLEASE CONTACT THE COURT REGISTRY FOR DIAL IN INFORMATION IN ADVANCE OF THE SCHEDULED DATE (UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED BELOW)
100 Mile House July 7 Cariboo.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference You do not need to call the registry, you can use the following link on the scheduled date: +1 604-335-9540 Canada, Vancouver (Toll) (844) 884-5561 Canada (Toll-free) Conference ID: 957 944 071#
Burns Lake July 14, 15,
and 16
Smithers.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
In-person not applicable
Chetwynd July 9 Peace.District.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference You do not need to call the registry, you can use the following link on the scheduled date: +1 604-335-9540 Canada, Vancouver (Toll) (844) 884-5561 Canada (Toll-free) Conference ID: 541 230 15#
Fort St. James July 15
and 16
PG.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-614-2700
Hazelton July 7 to 9 Smithers.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-847-7376
Houston July 13 Smithers.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference

You do not need to call the registry, you can use the following link on the scheduled date:

+1 604-335-9540 Canada, Vancouver (Toll)
(844) 884-5561 Canada
(Toll-free)

Conference ID: 213 678 161#

Kitimat July 9 Terrace.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference You do not need to call the registry, you can use the following link on the scheduled date: +1 604-335-9540 Canada, Vancouver (Toll) (844) 884-5561 Canada (Toll-free) Conference ID: 495 017 451#
Vanderhoof July 6, 7 PG.Scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference You do not need to call the registry, you can use the following link on the scheduled date: +1 604-335-9540 Canada, Vancouver (Toll) (844) 884-5561 Canada (Toll-free) Conference ID: 903 810 115#
VANCOVER ISLAND
COURT
LOCATION
DATE
MATTERS
SCHEDULED
JUDICIAL
CASE
MANAGER
CONTACT
YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD.... IF YOUR MATTER WILL BE HEARD BY AUDIO CONFERENCE PLEASE CONTACT THE COURT REGISTRY FOR DIAL IN INFORMATION IN ADVANCE OF THE SCHEDULED DATE (UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED BELOW)
Ganges July 17 dun.scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-746-1258
Tofino July 6 PortAlberni.scheduling
@provincialcourt.bc.ca
By audio conference 250-720-2424

THE FOREGOING IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE, AND ANY UPDATED DIRECTIONS WILL BE POSTED ON THE COURT’S WEBSITE.

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As of July 13, 2020, Provincial Court registries will be accepting all filings at the applicable court registry either in-person or remotely (by mail, email, fax to fax filing registries under GEN 01 Practice Direction, or using Court Services Online where available). NP 19 COVID-19: Resumption of Further Court Operations will be updated accordingly. To protect the health and safety of all court users and help contain the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining access to the Court, parties are encouraged to use remote filing options wherever possible.

The Court will post further information as it becomes available, so please continue to check our website at www.provincialcourt.bc.ca and follow us on Twitter @BCProvCourt.

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Date Issued: 02 July, 2020
Effective Date: 02 July 2020
FAM 08

PRACTICE DIRECTION

EARLY RESOLUTION PROCESS AND EXPEDITED COURT PROCESS TO CHANGE OR
SUSPEND CHILD OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT DUE TO COVID-19

Purpose & Application

The purpose of this Practice Direction is to set out the early resolution process and expedited court process that is available (but not required) for a party who is only seeking a suspension or change to an existing agreement or Provincial Court order about child support or spousal support as a result of a change in income since January 2020 that is related to COVID-19.

For all other relief (including relief for outstanding arrears prior to January 2020) or counterclaims not related to the above, parties may make an application in the normal course on July 8, 2020 when Provincial Court registries are able to accept new family filings.

This practice direction applies to all court registries in the Province. Variations in process at the Victoria registry, due to the Victoria Early Resolution and Case Management Model, are noted under section 4 below.

Direction

  1. Effective July 2, 2020 until further direction, the early resolution and expedited court process set out here may be used by parties seeking a suspension or change to an existing agreement or Provincial Court order about child support or spousal support as a result of a change in income since January 2020 related to COVID-19.
  2. Early Resolution Process
    1. How to begin (Intake)
      1. Contact the Family Justice Services Division (Family Justice Services) to schedule your individual needs assessment interview at:
      1. Complete an individual needs assessment with Family Justice Services by telephone or videoconference to identify: the issue(s) that need to be resolved; and determine whether the dispute resolution process is appropriate.
        1. Parties may also receive referrals to legal advice and other community supports.
        2. .A party may be contacted by Family Justice Services if someone else completed the form and named them in the form.
      2. Complete the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change” form and provide a copy to Family Justice Services and all other parties as noted on the form.
    2. Participation In Dispute Resolution Process
      1. If it is determined that participation in the Dispute Resolution Process is appropriate during the intake process, the parties may participate in a process which may include: mediation with a family justice counsellor, family law mediator, a collaborative family law process, or facilitated negotiation with a child support officer.
      2. Each party must provide financial information as required by Family Justice Services or the dispute resolution professional.
      3. If the parties reach an agreement,Family Justice Services or the dispute resolution professional involved may assist the parties to draft a variation of an existing written agreement which can be filed with the court for enforcement purposes; or assist the parties to apply to the court for a consent variation of an existing court order.
      4. If the parties do not reach an agreement but at least one party has completed a needs assessment interview, the matter may proceed to the expedited court process set out below.
      5. Family Justice Services will complete the bottom of the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change” form to indicate that one or all of the parties have completed an individual needs assessment interview.
  3. Expediated Court Process
    1. The party must submit the following forms required for court to the Pre-court Case Management Service (PCCM) which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca:
    2. PCCM will review to ensure documents are complete. Once completed, PCCM will file the documents with the court for the party by emailing the documents to the applicable registry.
    3. The party must serve a copy of each of the documents on all other parties to the order or agreement.
    4. The party filing a reply must submit their documents to PCCM, which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca. PCCM will review to ensure documents are complete. Once completed, PCCM will file the documents with the court for the party by emailing the documents to the applicable registry.
      1. See the Provincial Court (Family) Rules regarding documents that need to be filed, which may include a Financial Statement.
    5. A hearing will be scheduled after a reply has been filed, or the reply period has passed and proof of service has been filed.
    6. Each party may be required to provide additional financial information as required by the court.
    7. In some situations, such as where there is corporate income, previously imputed income, or lack of adequate financial information, an Amicus (legal counsel who is not counsel for a party but who assists the court) may review the filed material and speak to it in court. Parties will be advised whether they can expect Amicus to assist the court with their matter prior to the hearing.
    8. These matters will be heard by telephone or videoconference unless a judge orders otherwise.

      Note: When applying to court to vary a child support order, the requirement to complete the Parenting After Separation Program and to file a certificate of completion with the court registry still applies for the following court locations: Abbotsford, Campbell River, Chilliwack, Courtenay, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Penticton, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver (Robson Square) and Vernon. If you have already completed the program in the 24 months prior to filing the application, you may be exempt from this requirement. (See Provincial Court (Family) Rules, Rule 21).
  4. Victoria Registry (only)
    Variations in process at the Victoria registry, due to the Victoria Early Resolution and Case Management Model, are noted here.
    1. Early Resolution Process
      1. Complete and file the “Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter” form to enter into the process (not the “Notice of Intention to Change Existing Child or Spousal Support Due to COVID-19 Income Change”form).
      2. FMEP clients must provide a copy of the “Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter” form to their enforcement officer.
      3. Each party must meet the early resolution requirements as set out in the Provincial Court (Family) Rules Appendix B, Part 2.
    2. Expedited Court Process
      1. If, after having met the early resolution requirements, a court proceeding is required to change the support order or agreement,the party must submit the following documents to PCCM,which can be reached by telephone (604-660-2528 or Toll free 1-866-660-2684) or by email at pccm@gov.bc.ca,and serve a copy on each other party of the following documents found under “Early Resolution and Case Management Registry Forms (only in the Victoria court registry)”:
      2. FMEP clients must also provide a copy of the documents to their enforcement officer as required by the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act.

History of Practice Direction

  • Original practice direction effective July 02, 2020.

I make this practice direction pursuant to my authority under the Provincial Court Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 379 and Rule 8(11) of the Provincial Court (Child, Family and Community Services Act) Rules, B.C. Reg. 533/95.

Melissa Gillespie
Chief Judge
Provincial Court of British Columbia